Legend, yes, Welsh…maybe!

It’s 33 years since Tommy Cooper died while performing on the ITV show Live From Her Majesty’s at the age of 63.

On April 15th 1984, Tommy was almost at the end of his routine when he suddenly collapsed just before the first commercial break, causing pandemonium in the Outside Broadcast (OB) van outside the theatre relaying the show to ITV’s Central HQ and from there to the nation.

Neither the audience in the theatre, nor the viewers at home, realised that they’d witnessed Tommy Cooper’s final performance.

I’m going to court controversy here, because although he was born in Caerphilly, it’s a bit of a stretch to describe Tommy Cooper as a “Welsh Comedy Legend”, as some local newspapers describe him.

The same papers often print jokes they claim were Tommy’s but are obviously Tim Vine’s!

It’s understandable why local papers claim Tommy as ‘one of our own’.

While several top Welsh comedians present and past are/were very funny men, those whose fame spread beyond Offa’s Dyke and had long careers –  making them legendary – are in short supply. That the big man in the fez is a comedy legend is without doubt.

But at the age of three, Tommy and family moved to Exeter. That’s why, when we watch the repeats and clips of the madcap magician, he speaks with a thick West Country burr.

Can someone who didn’t start his comedy career until 20 years after leaving Wales truly be described as a Welsh Comedy Legend?

Just try contesting it with the good people of Caerphilly, where an impressive statue of Tommy stands opposite the castle.

If you’re a fan of Tommy, pay it a visit – and pop into the adjacent visitor centre for a cup of tea and a Welsh Cake. They don’t sell Exeter cakes!

Duo taking a Dusty Road to success in a tough business

I just love hearing good news, especially when people are doing well.

Two local musicians, Daniel Hughes and Laura Jayne Davies, known as Dusty Road, have now released their first album, as their tremendous following of fans were demanding a CD after seeing them live.

Last Thursday was the official album launch party at Garbos SA1 in Swansea – and it was a sell out event as expected.

Having worked with these talented individuals on numerous occasions, I can confidently say that they are truly professional and create a wonderful atmosphere for the audience. Re-booking them on the night has become a regular occurrence.

The world of entertainment is a long hard slog and there is no fast track to the top, yet so many young performers today give up far too soon and get disheartened by the knock-backs the industry often dishes out.

Dusty Road are proof that hard work and commitment to ongoing development are key to regular work in a volatile business.

Having recently supported The Osmonds, and fast becoming regular performers at weddings and corporate events, this talented duo are on the up.

Check out their new website www.dustyroadmusic.com and catch them live near you soon. You can thank me later.

Apathy rules in the business community

Council Elections 2017:

Last week, I found myself hosting the Business Hustings event prior to the county council elections, on behalf of the Llanelli Chamber of Trade and Commerce. The event was held at the Diplomat Hotel, Llanelli.

How I came to agree to host such an event is something that I’m still thinking about. Someone must have taken advantage of my good nature and caught me at a weak moment.

But, one thing is certain, party candidates are passionate about their own party’s policies, even if, at times, some might be under-prepared to take on the challenging questions surrounding business and employment issues, which was (after all) the main aim of the event.

The Llanelli chamber had invited one person from each party to share their party’s policies and aims for local business.

However, despite the fact that the event was reasonably well attended by the local public and party supporters, I could count on one hand how many business owners were in attendance. Apathy rules once again in the business community.

It was a missed opportunity to be heard and to influence the political scene – which has to be one of the first steps to instigating change.

People can make a difference, as long as they are heard and stand together. There are countless lessons in history that have demonstrated this.

But first – we have to show up!

Bad grammar? Words fail me!

THERE’S SO MUCH BAD GRAMMAR AROUND THESE DAYS, WORDS FAIL ME.

The Bee Gees wrote a song called “Words” which contains the lines . . .

It’s only words

And words are all I have

To take your heart away.

It’s a great song, but as someone who works with words every day, I’ve always disliked the line, “It’s only words”. Not just because the correct line should be, ‘They’re only words’, but because it infers words aren’t that important. Which is daft, coming from songwriters!

Words are important and it irritates me that people spell and pronounce them incorrectly everywhere. Take the British TV newsreaders, reporters and presenters who talk about ‘Reee-search’. ‘Research’ is pronounced without any emphasis on the first syllable . . . unless you’re American.

And, despite my complaining about it in this very newspaper last year, more and more people interviewed on TV still begin their answers with the patronising, “So . . . ”, as if they’re talking to a dim child.

On the brighter side, I recently read about a Bristol man who’s dedicated his life to correcting bad grammar in public places. For 13 years, he’s been going around the city at night, using pieces of white sticky-backed plastic to cover-up incorrectly inserted apostrophes on signs outside shops and other businesses.

He also inserts apostrophes when they’ve been incorrectly omitted, carefully matching the colour of the shop sign so neatly that ‘You can’t see the join’. He carries a retractable platform that enables him to reach signs above street level and “The Apostrophiser” – his own invention for adding and covering up apostrophes.

Basically, it’s a broom handle with a sponge on the end. Although he’s been interviewed on TV and in the press, he’s not interested in being famous.

Apostrophes are his sole mission in life and I hope it doesn’t come to a full stop!

See what I did there?

 

Rise of the robots makes me rage against the machines

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINES

You’ve probably read the recent ‘scare’ stories that a large proportion of people in the workplace will, in the not too distant future, be replaced by robots.

Almost 250,000 public sector workers could lose their jobs to robots over the next 15 years, according to a report which claims machines would be more efficient and save billions of pounds.

There’s a serious lack of joined-up thinking here.

H.M.R.C. is always owed billions by tax avoiders and evaders, so why would the Government agree to replace a quarter of a million human workers who do pay income tax and National Insurance with machines that won’t contribute to the state?

In many shops and supermarkets, machines have already started to replace humans and no one seems to be complaining . . . except me.

I’m talking about self-service check-outs and tills – which I absolutely loathe and refuse to use.

If you don’t share my loathing or have never given them much thought, you should.

Apart from the fact they replaced ‘real’ staff members, they can be a right pain in the neck to use.

Nobody wants to be made to look foolish by a robot voice telling them they’ve ‘placed an incorrect item in the bagging area’. Three times!

A well-known High Street newsagent I often visit has two tills on the counter plus two self-service tills, between which a staff member continually hovers, helping customers having trouble with them.

Why not scrap the self-service tills and put the ‘hovering helper’ behind the unused third till on the counter so human customers can interact with human staff?

Otherwise it’s possible that one day I’ll walk into the shop to find four self-service tills and no staff.

That’ll be the day when I turn around and walk out, with a robot voice shouting after me, “Customer unexpectedly refusing to make a purchase!”

Spring’s here – let’s blow away the cobwebs

At last, a few days of sunshine and a taste of the summer to come – well, hopefully.

I even managed to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine with the first bike ride of the year. And, before you ask, yes, the leathers still fit!

Last Sunday, the Welsh roads saw hundreds of bikers enjoying the countryside from the Gower coastline to the top end of Wales, which as far as I’m concerned are the best roads and scenic views in Britain.

Yes OK, we do sometimes lack the ideal weather, but when it all comes together and the conditions are right who wouldn’t want to live here in Wales?

City traffic jams are a curse most days and weekend traffic brings out the worst in people as stress levels rise.

So, with this in mind, I go out on my motorbike and explore places that aren’t as well known or as popular.

An old friend once told me, “Life is an adventure and we must all fuel the need to get outdoors and explore the beauty that awaits discovery.”

Wise words. I’m sure many would agree.

Easter drives me crackers!

Were you aware that ‘Easter is now the Second Christmas’?

No, me neither.

But, according to some of our major retailers, that’s how it’s now being marketed to the public in the hope we’ll spend, spend, spend almost as much as we do in the run-up to December 25th.

Having drained our bank accounts during the final few months of 2016, there are companies out there who believe they haven’t squeezed enough additional dosh out of us from New Year’s Day (cards); Valentine’s Day (cards, flowers, champagne, restaurant bookings); Pancake Day (indigestion tablets); and Mother’s Day (cards; flowers; Daniel O’Donnell CDs).

Even those of us who – weddings and funerals aside – haven’t been to church since we had our first swimming lesson in the font as babies, know Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, while Easter is when Christians remember his crucifixion and resurrection. Bible lesson for today over!

Yes, both festivals have pagan roots, but how can retailers connect them in such a crass, insensitive way?

Some years ago, out of the blue I received the first-ever card wishing me “Happy Easter” and I realised sinister ‘market forces’ were elbowing their way in to what shops and manufacturers saw as ‘untapped’ ways of making money.

Now, supermarkets are trying to convince us that we cannot possibly enjoy Easter as we always have – eating chocolate while watching “The Great Escape” – and we can’t do without what they refer to as ‘Easter Essentials’ like Easter cupcakes, Easter napkins decorated with daffodils . . . and, I kid you not . . . Easter crackers!

Well, they failed to convince me.

However it made me think that if the public really are that gullible I should capitalise on another ‘gap in the market’.

Look out for my new range of Phil Evans “Happy Wednesday!” greeting cards!

 

Actions speak louder than words when it comes to pay

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS

The people in power are at it again. There are so many things that challenge my thinking these days and I find quite puzzling.

After the atrocities in London last week, the bravery and courage of our police force, ambulance and hospital staff can’t be denied.

Parliament spoke about it in their speeches over the days following the attack.

However, rewind to last summer and you may remember this story.

The pay rise for rank-and-file police officers, announced by the Home Office in July 2016, was almost three times less than the 2.8 per cent police associations had called for.

Ken Marsh, from the Metropolitan Police Federation was quoted at the time as saying, “The expectation was that we would get more than 1 per cent. This paltry rise clearly shows how the Government views the hard work of our colleagues each and every day.”

Interesting reading, don’t you think?

Have they not heard of ‘inflation’?

Do they even understand as to how inflation works?

Theresa May was Home Secretary at the time and this quote from her must sum it up: “Police officers up and down the country do a fantastic job with a tremendous sense of duty, fighting crime and keeping us safe, and it is right they are rewarded.

About time these politicians put their money where their mouth is?

What do you think?

Just shop around to beat stress!

SHOPPING AROUND

We’re told the ‘high street’ is dead. The cause of death, according to the coroners in the media, is the internet.

Many of us don’t have the time or the inclination to go shopping and would rather come home from work in the evenings and spend hours hunched over our PC keyboards ordering clothes, groceries and household items.

In the words of Victor Meldrew . . . “I don’t believe it!”

I can only go by the evidence I see with my own eyes. When I wander around our towns and cities the streets seem busy with shoppers.

And I don’t just visit coffee shops! No, sometimes I go wild and pop into a tea shop.

If a town/city centre offers a variety of independent and chain stores, people will shop there, especially if new, innovative ideas attract them, like the latest from Marks and Spencer.

Based on an idea of comedienne Ruby Wax, who’s admitted to having had mental health problems, several M & S branches will offer stress therapy run by experienced volunteers in their restaurants, which, during these sessions will be called “Ruby’s Frazzled Cafe”.

A spokesman said: ‘Frazzled Cafe meetings are designed not just for the one-in-four Britons* who will suffer a mental illness at some point, but for the four-in-four overwhelmed by the stresses of modern life.

“They’re a simple, pressure-free way of tackling what can be a taboo subject – feeling stressed”

(*As the population of the U.K. is around 64 million, that’s 16 million of us. – which is astonishing.)

I hope the scheme spreads all over the UK. But we can all start becoming de-stressed by spending less time ordering online and more time in our shopping centres.

You might even spot me in a coffee shop. Or maybe a tea shop. I’m such a tease!

It’s nice to know I’m being checked out regularly!

CHECKING ME OUT

I have just realised that this will be the 144th page I’ve presented to the South Wales Evening Post 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.