The debt we owe our heroes

THE PAST IS ANOTHER COUNTRY – AND SOME PEOPLE SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO TRAVEL THERE!

I was dismayed to learn that the statue in London’s Green Park (commemorating the ultimate sacrifice made in World War Two by members of Bomber Command) had been vandalised – covered in white paint.

The Royal Marine Memorial was also vandalised, as was the memorial to WPC Yvonne Fletcher, who, in April 1984, was killed by a bullet fired from the Libyan Embassy in St. James’s Square.

The paint-throwing cowards hid their faces beneath hoods, while they desecrated memorials to heroes who bravely faced danger and death every day.

I can’t imagine the vandals would possess the cool-headed courage that 25-year-old flight engineer Norman Jackson did on a bombing raid over Germany in 1944. After coming under attack, the starboard wing of his Lancaster bomber caught fire and, despite being wounded by shrapnel, at a height of 22,000 feet he climbed on to the wing with a fireextinguisher!

As the plane travelled at 200 mph it came under further attack, he got badly burnt and fell off the plane, his parachute bursting into flames. He spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp and was later awarded the Victoria Cross.

There’s a growing tendency today for certain groups to delight in smearing major figures from Britain’s past – some of whom were, admittedly, flawed characters.

However,they were the ones who bravely stepped up to the plate to defend Britain and because they did we live in a country where people can try and rewrite history through 21stCentury eyes – a futile task!

Ironically, if our war heroes and military leaders hadn’t acted as they did, today’s naysayers wouldn’t have the chance to say nay!

Despite what happened to him, Norman Jackson was one of the luckier members of Bomber Command. 55, 573 of the 125,000 lost their lives.

It comes down to this.

Who would you rather have a pint and a chat with – Norman Jackson or a self-important, would-be rewriter of our history?

Discuss…

Old days and the community spirit

As a young lad, I was brought up in the days where everybody in the street on which you lived knew everyone else. I am sure many of you reading this column can remember this time very well. The good old days.

However, times have changed and, unfortunately, there are so many of us today that don’t know who lives on the street, or, in some cases, even who lives next door!

Gone are the days when you would pop next door to borrow a cup of sugar or your neighbour would pop in to share their copy of the local paper when they’d finished it.

My grandmother would always make the effort to check on her neighbours and get to know anyone new who moved into the street. If she were still around today, they’d nickname her “Google”.

Keeping in touch with those around you was second nature. These were life skills and values that would prove useful for all concerned. Wouldn’t it be lovely to see this sense of community make a welcome return?

Now you can’t meet the gang!

“Meet The Gang, ’Cos The Boys Are Here. The Boys To Entertain You!”

Many readers will recognise the song that opened all 56 episodes of the BBC sitcom “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum!”. It was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and based on their wartime experiences with army concert parties in Burma and India.

It’s hard making people laugh in comedy clubs. How tough must it have been with gunfire and explosions close by? One of the stars of the series, Windsor Davies, sadly passed away recently, aged 88. His character in the sitcom, Battery Sergeant Major Bryn Williams, was truly memorable.

Viewers roared with laughter whenever he loudly voiced his disapproval of the hopeless entertainers in uniform – a motley crew he constantly failed to discipline into a fighting force.

The Sgt Major was always troubled by Bombardier ‘Gloria’ Beaumont, played by Melvyn Hayes, and ‘Mister Lah-Dee-Dah’ Gunner Graham, played by John Clegg.

The series ran from 1974 to 1981 and had regular audiences of 17 million! I’d better repeat that in capital letters – 17 MILLION!

Last Christmas, BBC bosses were delighted when “Call The Midwife” was watched by 9 million!

Times have changed and the BBC refuse to repeat “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” because they say it’s racist.

Although Perry and Croft denied these accusations, their protestations that the Indian characters always outwitted the ‘idiotic’ British officers were stifled by the BBC, who couldbe accused of hypocrisy.

Because not only are they happy to make money from a series they disdain – every episode is available on BBC DVD – the Gold channel, part-owned by the BBC, often repeats another Perry and Croft comedy classic “Are You Being Served?”

The sitcom features thinly-disguised innuendo about Mrs. Slocombe’s cat; the outrageously camp Mister Humphries; and ‘Young’ Mister Grace, a man so ancient he’s helped around by a busty young blonde nurse. So that’s okay then!

In view of the BBC’s refusal to repeat “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum!”, I’ve rewritten the opening song…

“You Can’t Meet The Gang, ’Cos The Boys Aren’t Here. They’re Not Allowed To Entertain You!”

Travelling on the road to true inspiration

They do say that travel broadens the mind. It has its benefits no doubt – and for those that are blessed with the ability to get about and see the word, life can be enhanced in so many ways.

For me, travel takes me away from the day to day challenges, pressure of work and constant demands that many of us face, in this fast-paced world that we now live in.  I’m lucky to have work-related activities that allow me to travel.

Time away often gives me a chance to think and reflect – a welcome opportunity to clear my head and process the important things in life.  At times like this I find that I’m at my creative best.

Possibly because I have an opportunity to watch and observe other people and cultures, which over the years has provided me with some truly inspirational writing and comedy gold.

Yes, this is me watching you. Another blessing. By the way – I’m not keen on camping. Let’s face it, life can be hard enough as it is!

‘Awful!’ but it lifted the gloom

Grey, cold January getting you down?

Broken your first resolution?

This news story I spotted might just put a smile on your face. An audience member who attended a performance of  “Jack And The Beanstalk”at the Neeld Community & Arts Centre, Chippenham, Wiltshire described it as…”Awful!”.

You might think that was just one person’s criticism of a professional pantomime company, until you consider that promised in their advertising were ”Sparkling sets and glittering costumes to bring festive joy!” when in reality, there wasnoscenery, sparkling or otherwise.

There were only three cast members – and according to another audience member “None of them could sing or dance!”

Makes you wonder why they weren’t auditioning for The X Factor instead of spending December in Wiltshire.

But it gets better.

Apparently, to make it appear there were more than three people in the cast, the trio on stage occasionally spoke into the wings and backstage staff whispered their answers.

Excuse me while I wipe these tears of laughter from my eyes.

It reminds me of the Morecambe and Wise sketch set in a Foreign Legion fort. Eric and Ernie walk in dressed as Legionaires and just before he closes the door, Eric looks outside and says “You two hundred men stay there and we’ll call if we need you!”

Another ”Jack And The Beanstalk” audience member remarked “It was pretty terrible. My kids were bored. Luckily I found the bar”.

Amazingly the show completed its three day run, but there were so many complaints that all 651 ticket buyers who’d paid £7 each were given a full refund. A loss of £4,557!

To be honest, the show sounded so hysterical, I’d have willingly handed over seven quid to have seen it.

I wonder where the same panto company – who you’ll notice I’ve not mentioned the name of – will be next Christmas?

If I find out, anyone want to organise a coach trip?

Just don’t forget Valentine’s Day – perish the thought!

I remember the days when you could only get petrol, oil and bags of coal from the local petrol station. How times have changed!

Today, most petrol stations are as well stocked up as the supermarkets, which is a blessing in more ways than one for many men, especially as St Valentine’s Day is around the corner!

The last minute chocolates, cards and flowers can quite often save a relationship.

Having said that, Welsh men are actually quite lucky – we get St Dwynwen’s Day on the 25th January which I’m convinced was created as a three-week pre-warning just so we don’t forget. Perish the thought!

Last year, I decided to get that special person in my life some lovely flowers for St Valentine’s Day. The landlord of my local was quite touched and displayed them in a vase on the bar.

Comedy kings’ legacy lives on

It won’t have escaped you that there’s a new film on release about Laurel and Hardy’s British theatre tours of the late 40s/early 50s. It’s called “Stan and Ollie”.

They came over here when the Hollywood studios, which had made pots of money out of the duo in their heyday, turned their back on them.

Here’s a warning to anyone thinking of entering showbiz. Buy yourself a warm overcoat, because there’ll be times when it can get terribly cold, even if you’re a comedy genius.

The two actors who play Stan (Steve Coogan) and Ollie (John.C. Reilly) have been tirelessly plugging the film all over the media. In fact, they seem to have popped-up on almost every TV show in the schedules apart from Dancing On Ice– and that’s only because they had a prior commitment on the other side of London to bake a cake for Mary Berry.

Hats off to them for sounding so unflaggingly enthusiastic about the film, with no sign of ‘anecdote fatigue’ which can easily set in by the second day of back-to-back press junkets in a London hotel, with PR people timing each allotted 10-minute chat with a stop watch.

Although I – and I’m sure you, too – knew that Stan Laurel was born in Ulverston, Cumbria, some interviewers hadn’t realised that he was British until they’d seen a preview of the film. Which makes me wonder if their knowledge of cinema history only goes back to Star Wars.

Until he went out of favour with studio bosses, Stan was one of the three most popular and influential comedians in Hollywood.  The other two were Charlie Chaplin and Bob Hope. All British.

Bob famously said, “I left England at the age of four when I realised I’d never be King”. He was wrong. Hope, Chaplin and Stan Laurel all became Kings of Comedy.

Right. Clear off! You’ve had your 10 minutes with me.

Who’s next? And get me some fresh coffee!

This pet subject is a tonic for hospital patients

These days, it’s not unusual to open the newspaper and see the NHS getting a bashing over something or other. Social media is awash with negative stories, but how often do we see the absolutely amazing things that NHS staff do 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

I came across one such story this week that wouldn’t fail to melt even the coldest of hearts!

Morriston Hospital Patient Advice and Liaison Officer Nicci Evans and health care scrub support worker Kelly Elt came up with the fantastic idea of introducing a ‘Pets as Therapy’ dog, Jax, to the patients and staff at the hospital. Jax is Kelly’s cockerpoo, known for his gentle nature.

After a chance meeting in the hospital, Nicci and Kelly came up with the idea of bringing Jax into the hospital as a therapy dog. Jax was assessed by charity Pets as Therapy and passed with flying colours.

His visit went down so well with patients and staff alike, that the girls are now hoping to make it a regular event in the hospital.  It’s well known that our pets have a healing and therapeutic effect on us humans, and here is the proof. Well done!

Nugget of information gave me food for thought

I thought I’d give you the benefit of my meticulously-researched analysis of the current Brexit situation. Just kidding!

While the ‘B’ word isn’t the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning, I’m reminded of it as soon as I start feeding my pet pooch his kibble – they’re both dog’s breakfasts.

Talking of food, as one of my hip and trendy readers with your finger on the pulse of what’s happening, you’ll be aware we’re well into ‘Veganuary’ the month, when we’re encouraged to give up meat, dairy and fish.

If we give up drinking tea next month, will it be referred to as ‘Feb-No-Brew-Up-Ary’?  Maybe not…

I was staggered to hear that a well-known chain of High Street bakers (I’m not allowed to name them, but it rhymes with ‘eggs’) have started selling vegan sausage rolls.  Presumably, made with real vegans. Yum!

I was double-staggered to hear on the very same day that a fast food chain famous for their burgers and fries has started serving children’s vegetarian ‘Happy Meals’ containing yellow split peas, rice, sun-dried tomato pesto and herbs. It’s a great idea, but how many children will be ‘Happy’ to hear that?

Again, I can’t name the company in question but it’s the same as the old man who had a farm in the children’s song.

I’ve never understood why that song hasn’t been banned by teachers.

Because every time the word ‘FARM’ is mentioned, it’s spelt out as ‘E.I.E.I.O’. which must cause confusion among kids struggling with the complexities of English grammar

However, I was treble-staggeredto learn the ‘Vegetarian Happy Meal’ contains 209 calories while the normal chicken nugget ‘Happy Meal’ only has 173!

That fact got my mental wheels turning (luckily they’ve recently been steam cleaned!) and a load of thoughts came to me.

The main one being . . . “What part of a chicken is a nugget?”

I’d ask Old MacDonald but he can’t even spell ‘FARM’…

Any drive to make our roads safer must surely be a good thing

I was amazed to read this week that the police road safety campaign, Operation Snap, has received 2,300 items of dashcam footage of video or pictures relating to driving offences, all taken by members of the public.

This has apparently led to action being taken in more than 650 cases in Wales over the last year, including 100 fixed penalty fines, 83 court prosecutions and 90 drivers sent on awareness courses.

I know, from speaking to friends and family that this way of catching these drivers out has a very mixed reaction. I have seen friends get very irate on social media when a speed camera is lying in wait in a lay-by to catch unsuspecting drivers speeding.

Personally, I do like speed, but am reminded that the speed limit is there for a reason!

Being unable to handle a car or motorcycle at high speed is known to cause so many accidents and surely any measure that will slow drivers down is a good thing, if it means our loved ones are getting home safely every day?

Not a week goes by when there is not a bump on the M4, so I’m all for backing anything that makes our roads a safer place.

This topic is not everyone’s cup of tea, but do let me know what you think…