Time to drink in the fact we are not as smart as we think!

We all believe we’re slightly more intelligent than the next person.  Especially if we’re on a train in elbow-rubbing proximity to a WAG minister.

But there are times when, no matter how high our IQ, we behave as if it’s dropped to below single figures – if that’s at all possible.

In other words, ‘Sometimes we ain’t as smart as we think’!  Here’s a f’rinstance that many of my readers will relate to.

I was listening to the Ken Bruce Radio 2 show the other day and heard a conversation between Mr. Bruce and a ‘Pop Master’ contestant I’ll call ‘Bernard’.  His name was actually Derek, but I once knew someone with that name who I didn’t like, so I’ll call him ‘Bernard’.

If you don’t know what ‘Pop Master’ is, you’re either in full-time employment or have such a busy life you never take a break at 10.30 on weekday mornings to listen to the long-running music quiz.

This particular Friday morning, ‘Bernard’ mentioned that as it was his 50th birthday the following day, the celebration, would be a ‘three-day event’.  A Friday pub lunch with drinks and an evening meal…with drinks.  Saturday, there’d be another pub lunch with drinks and another evening meal… with drinks.  Then, on the Sunday, a big family get together where there would be loads of party food… with yet more drinks.

I may be wrong, but I can’t imagine that during his ‘three day event’ he’d be dining on lentils, pulses and other ultra-healthy food.  More than likely, he’d do what most of us non-vegans/vegetarians do to celebrate a big birthday and tuck into a thick juicy steak and chips or a pizza or a big bowl of pasta, washed down with plenty of ‘vino collapso’ or beer, followed by thick, sweet desserts.  So, to sum up…

To celebrate getting one year older, Bernard happily risked the possibility of clogging his arteries and ruining his liver, thereby reducing the odds of him celebrating many more birthdays.  Proof that ’Sometimes we ain’t as smart as we think’.

What are you drinking?  It’s my round!

Here’s a tip worth remembering – change only happens when we’re unhappy

Suddenly, we have all become political experts.  It’s a fact – most people don’t consider the source of the media information they are exposed to before making a decision.

The masses have always been led by a small group of clever and cunning men in power.  This has and will always be the case.  History does repeat itself – there is always a ‘tipping point’.  This can also be said for job satisfaction and relationships.

I once read a fascinating book called Tipping Point – and following the EU referendum result now understand a bit more clearly that change only occurs when people are unhappy.  Something worth remembering.

Right – I’m off  now to build an air raid shelter out the back garden and stock up on supplies- just in case.  Mark my words neither will be needed.  Just sayin’ . . .

A giant eel? Now that has to be monstrously untrue!

When I’m trawling through newspapers for ideas to entertain my readers, I’ll often come across a headline that leaps out at me, grabs me by the lapels and says, “Phil, mate, you have to say something about this!”

For example . . .  “Drunken ballerina kicks policeman in the groin after missing flight!”

I’m almost, but not quite, ashamed to say that when I saw it, my comedy instinct took over and I thought ,“She must have been rehearsing for the Nutcracker Suite”.

I know very little about the world of ballet. For years, I thought a ‘Pas De Deux’ was a French father of two.  And, yes, I’m aware that it was an assault on one of our brave boys in blue, who face enough aggro on a daily basis without having to contend with a petite dancer who’d obviously spent far tutu much time at the barre.  But, be fair. It was a funny headline.

How often do you see the words ‘Drunken’, ‘Groin’ and ‘Ballerina’ in the same sentence – unless you’re privy to some unsavoury backstage secrets at Sadler’s Wells?

Another headline that grabbed my attention was the one that claimed “The Loch Ness Monster Is A Giant Eel”.  According to scientists who analysed DNA in the water, the eel is 13 foot in length.  Hardly ‘monster size’.  I’ve eaten spaghetti longer than that!  Besides, eels have a life cycle.

Depending on the species and their habitat (no, I’m not after Sir David Attenborough’s job) they can live up to 25 years.  To me, that blows a hole the size of Godzilla in the giant eel theory, because the Loch Ness monster was first seen around 900 years ago.

Unfortunately, there are no photographs available because the monk who spotted it had run out of film the day before.  And being a Trappist, he couldn’t ask any of his fellow monks if they had a spare camera.  What a shame!

As far as I’m concerned there’s definitelyan enormous prehistoric monster in Loch Ness and I’ll continue to believe it for as long as I’ve got shares in the Scottish Tourist Board.

I’m feeling the chilly arrival of winter weather

I’m in need of some help here.

My gran would always tell me to “never cast a clout until May is out” and to be honest, for most of my childhood, I never knew what on earth she was talking about.

Apparently, since the 15th century ‘clout’ is a word that has been used to describe a fragment of cloth or clothing and could be spelled as clowt, clowte, cloot, or clute.  It’s here that the saying took on two meanings, rather than just the one original.

The new meaning was a reminder not to be too quick to chuck the winter clothes before cooler days during the month of May were most likely over.

Following events of the weekend and the wrath of Storm Lorenzo doing his best to rain on our parade, I am now wondering when would be the best time to pull out the Damart catalogue (other thermal underwear retailers are available) and put my vest back on.  Putting the patio furniture and barbeque away for the winter this week left me feeling rather chilly to say the least.

You just can’t always bank on staff being happy about your claims

When we talk to staff in shops, cafes and banks, we expect to receive the same amount of courtesy we give.  But we’re often disappointed.

Some time ago I told you about the appalling service a friend of mine encountered at his bank when he tried to transfer birthday money into his grand-daughter’s bank account.  While I won’t reveal the name of his bank, I can tell you it’s in Newport.  The Newport that moved from Monmouthshire to Gwent and then re-located to south Wales.

One thing you can say about Newport. It’s well-travelled.

My friend recently received even worse treatment at a different branch of the same bank.  However, this time he came away from the experience more amused than annoyed.

A couple of days before the PPI deadline, he popped into the branch to ask whether he might be able to claim PPI on a credit card first issued to him more than 20 years ago.

He was greeted by a clipboard-clasping lady, who asked, with a forced smile, “Are you alright there?”  Oh dear! Bad start!

When my friend replied, “I’m just enquiring whether I had PPI on my credit card”, the lady, rather-too-eagerly, announced, “We don’t deal with PPI in-branch!”

Then, her eyes narrowed as she asked in a classic passive-aggressive tone, “What makes you think you weremis-sold PPI?”

My friend replied ,“I don’t. But Martin Lewis, the money advice expert, said people should find out whether they were.”

At the mention of Mister Lewis, the lady snarled, “I hate that man!”
Surprised by her bilious outburst, my friend replied, “Why? Because he helps people save money?”   The lady’s face then resembled a bulldog chewing a wasp (Les Dawson:1975) as she went off on one about Martin Lewis bringing banks to their knees!

This churlish response was totally unwarranted as she’d been asked a perfectly reasonable question and her spectacularly negative attitude was so OTT my friend almost burst out laughing.  He wants to change banks, but I hope he doesn’t.

Stories like this shine a spotlight on unhelpful clipboard-clasping employees.  You know who you are!

Dreams can turn your bedtime into a nightmare

We all need a good night’s sleep to recharge the batteries and to maintain good health.  How else will our bodies repair?

Some of you reading this will, without doubt have a few sleep challenges, which can range from insomnia, not needing much sleep, to needing more sleep than most.  But for me, it’s vivid dreams on an extremely regular basis.

This could be down to the fact I have an over-active mind or the fact that I don’t relax or unwind before bed time.  Either that, or there could be a much more serious underlying cause. Who knows?

One thing is for sure, my disturbed dreams could easily be part of a documentary on the subject of sleep and the source of many after dinner stories.  In fact, I could easily dine out on my back catalogue of vivid dream for many years to come.

The good thing is, I stopped sleep-walking many years back.  But, if you do spot me walking the streets in my pyjamas late at night, don’t wake me up!  Just point me in the right direction home.  Thanks in advance.

Read the news – don’t make it!

Some loyal readers like my Uncle Cledwyn and my chiropractor  Arthur ‘Flat Nose’ O’ Toole the spectacularly unsuccessful (fought 20fights – lost 21) ex- boxer, have asked why I sometimes comment on news stories weeks after they’ve done the rounds.  Not that Arthur O’Toole ever went more than one round.  I had answers for them both, which can’t be repeated in a family newspaper.

I’m sometimes late catching up with news items because I’m a very busy man and although I buy papers every day, I don’t always get chance to look at more than the headlines.  Then there’s the magazines I buy (No, not from the top shelf) plus the ones I subscribe to that regularly pop through the letterbox.  Newspapers, their weekend supplements and glossy magazines pile up until I find time to read them before they go into the re-cycling.

While sorting through some old newspapers I saw an article about professional autocue reader Huw Edwards that brightened-up the early autumn evening gloom.

The article and the accompanying photos made me wonder if he’s going through a mid-life crisis, though as he’s 58 it’s doubtful he’ll reach 116.  I’m happy to be proved wrong, so will someone please call me on the day he celebrates that birthday?

The article focused on his obsession with his weight loss and virile new image, which led him to post lots of photographs of himself on social media in model-like poses which have been described variously as ‘relaxed’ and ‘sultry’.  Please stop laughing!!

He’s also posted one of himself straddling a motor bike wearing a suit and buckled shoes. Huw’s wearing the suit and buckled shoes, not the motorbike.

I’m not suggesting he’s a self-important narcissist, but I’m sure one photo revealed a love bite on his neck.  Self-inflicted.

His BBC colleagues are highly amused by Huw’s obsession with his slimline body and are just as eager to see his latest postings as he is to send them.

All joking aside, this proves that those whose job it is to read the news should strenuously avoid being in the news!

Perseverance and hard work is key to a successful column

I’m often asked, “How long does it take you to write these columns and where do the ideas come from?”

So, it’s about time I shared the secret, despite the fact that it’s not a secret.
There are always ideas floating around in my head.  Sometimes I overhear a conversation and I instantly see this as an idea that can be expanded upon or developed into an article.  There are also other voices floating around my head, but I’m having therapy for those.

Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV can and often be a source of material and inspiration.  Often, my close friends share ideas with me and encourage me to write about certain topics. Most are thought-provoking and topical. Some I couldn’t possibly publish!

These ideas are scribbled down as rough notes in the first instance.  Sometimes, the notes remain there for months until the opportunity arises to turn them into a story good enough for you, the reader.  After all, my main aim is to inform, entertain and sometimes stimulate or challenge your thinking. Yes, there is method in the madness.

So, in general, the collation of ideas is an ongoing process. However, pulling it all together is where the hard work comes in.  Like most things in life, perseverance through the doubts and insecurities is the key to success.

Not everything works all of the time. But, from the fantastic feedback I get, I think we might be getting it right most of the time.

Telly repeats really take the biscuit!

Although Bank Holiday Monday August 26th seems ages ago, we remember it as a real ‘scorcher’.  It was so hot, I threw caution to the wind (even though there was no breeze that day) and removed my vest for the entire afternoon.

That was our last public holiday until December 25th and the short days and long dark nights of autumn and early winter will be with us before we know it.  Personally, I already know it, which is why I wear a vest.

Autumn is traditionally when the terrestrial TV companies bring out their big starry shows that attract high ratings.  Unfortunately, having ‘something good to watch on the telly at last’ is a double-edged sword for performers like yours truly as, with any luck, we’ll be out working several evenings a week.

If only there was some sort of technology that allowed us to record TV programmes so we could watch them any time we like . . .

During the summer months, TV bosses decamp to their bolt holes in Tuscany and San Tropez, seemingly indifferent to the fact they’ve left the schedules filled with endless repeats and films we’ve seen at least 10 times – since last Christmas!

And the stagnant TV menu card hasn’t just covered the desolate wasteland of afternoon programming; it’s also moved into prime time.

However, terrestrial TV did give us some new shows this summer.
‘Classics’ like “Britain’s Favourite Biscuit”, “Britain’s Favourite Chocolate Bar” and “Britain’s Favourite Takeaway” – and, without any sense of irony, the same channel broadcast “Britain’s Obesity Crisis”.

If John Logie Baird, the father of television, were alive today, he might wish he’d invented the widget instead.  Then again, he’d be almost 140, so probably wouldn’t be all that concerned.

If people can approach a broadcaster with a daft idea like “Britain’s Favourite Used Teabag” and get it commissioned, why bother wracking your brains trying to come up with an original sitcom or drama, then slog away for months writing and re-writing it?

So here’s my daft TV show idea for Summer 2020.  “Britain’s Favourite Repeat Of Summer 2019”.

Interested broadcasters, please form an orderly queue…

Brewing up some interest in local ventures

Now, those of you that read my column regularly will realise that I spend a lot of my time frequenting local coffee shops, where I meet some fantastic people and also do a lot of my creative writing.

But I’ve recently come to realise that I don’t think you go to a single town in Wales now and not see one of the major coffee house franchises somewhere along the high street.

Even in some of the small quaint towns and villages, you won’t have to look far to find one.  But this made me think, there are also some of the most beautiful small, independent local coffee shops in each and every town that are usually family run and which seem to be struggling to keep up with the coffee giants.

Years ago, this was where everyone from the community got together to catch up on the local news.  On a weekly basis, I’m seeing local cafes close as they are unable to compete.  This makes me sad.

I’ve decided to make a concerted effort from now on to search for the little local coffee shops.  And if they happen to be serving homemade cake, too, it would be very rude of me not to indulge!