There’s too much information!

Follow me down Memory Lane, first right into Nostalgia Street, then left up Reminiscence Avenue . . .

Before the idea of 24-hour rolling news channels gestated in the mind of some media ‘genius’ with too much time on his hands, television broadcasters occasionally interrupted programmes with a “News Flash”.

One minute viewers would be watching “Starsky And Hutch” or “3-2-1!” Then, suddenly, the screen would go blank and a continuity announcer would say in a solemn voice, “We now go over to our news room for a News Flash”.

They were words that would make genteel old ladies in Spa towns reach for the gin bottle with shaking hands, because every time it happened, viewers worried World War Three had started.

Today, we’re so used to ‘Breaking News’ (about anything from a light dusting of snow to the death of a fashion designer most of us have never heard of) that we barely look up from our collector’s edition (only one was published, or indeed necessary) of “Kamikaze Pilot Monthly”.

A News Flash had more effect on the digestive system than a bowl of bran flakes as it signified something really importanthad happened, such as the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy; the death of Winston Churchill; and (I know this because a friend of mine worked for the company) Vehicle and General Insurance suddenly going into liquidation in 1971.

Their one million customersleft without insurance cover were firmly told, “Get your cars off the road . . . immediately!

24-hour rolling news channels, breakfast television and irritating ‘news updates’ that certain channels drop in between orin the middle of programmes, have consigned News Flashes to history, along with the lute, public executions and families happy to sit in restaurants without checking their mobile phones every five minutes.

Now . . . don’t get me started on rolling news weather presenters who make a three-course meal out of their forecasts before leaving us still wondering whether it’s going to rain!

Laughter on prescription? Now that would be a real tonic

Laughter comes in many forms: the giddy giggle, the mild chuckle, the gutsy guffaw, the sarcastic “ha!”

Its meaning is just as varied, signalling everything from amusement to discomfort and distain.

For researchers, understanding how our brain interprets this complex behaviour is serious business. Yes, people are actually paid loads of money to research this stuff.

Every day we are faced with varying degrees of stress and challenging situations. And, as time goes on, as we get older, relaxation and laughter can slow down the ageing process.

We are bombarded with information relating to weight loss, diets, exercise and such like.

But little is said about the huge health benefits of laughter.
This is probably because of the lack of understanding by the masses . . . up to this point!

Over the years, while attending many conferences, I have been party to such a discussion, that left me convinced that the benefits of humour and being around uplifting people can add years to our lives, reduce the need for anti-depressants and keep our brains active for much longer.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get laughter on prescription?

After all, laughter is the best medicine. Unless, of course, you are diabetic. Then, insulin works better.

Offensive? You must be joking

In these ‘PC‘ times, it seems some individuals are so intolerant, so lacking in humour, that hearing a joke or remark they don’t like, instead of ignoring it, they feel ‘victimised’ and must make a fuss about it.

Recently in San Francisco, Richard Ned Lebow, a 75-year old Professor at Kings College London, attended the A.G.M. of The International Studies Association – The I.S.A.

While Richard was standing at the back of a crowded lift, a man at the front, next to the buttons, called out “What floors do you people want?”
The Professor, jokily replied, “Ladies lingerie!”

He knew it was pretty lame, but several people chuckled and he gave it no more thought.

Four hours later, a woman he didn’t know, a Professor of Women’s And Gender Studies, lodged a formal complaint with the I.S.A., stating that she’d been in the lift and “as a survivor of sexual harassment in the academy I’m quite shaken by this incident”.

She claimed she’dasked what floors people wanted and that Professor Lebow’s reply of “Women’sLingerie” had been aimed directly at her.
Professor Lebow said he’d definitely hearda man’s voice and had replied, “LadiesLingerie”.

As his view was obscured by people standing in front of him, he couldn’t possibly have ‘aimed’ the joke at her.

Nevertheless, he sent her a polite e-mail explaining he hadn’t intended to make her feel uncomfortable – but the lady complained about that, too!
The I.S.A. declared his joke was ’offensive and inappropriate’, his e-mail ‘was an even more serious violation’ and he should make an ‘unequivocal apology’.

Unsurprisingly he’s refused to, stating that “If we allow people to dictate what we can or can’t say and to intimidate us with cries of ‘sexist’ and ‘misogynist’ we will lose our cherished freedom of speech”.

Next time I’m in a lift, my lips will be like the doors – closed!

Fake news is everywhere

We hear a lot these days about ‘Fake News’.

I’ll hold my hands up here – which isn’t easy when you’re typing a newspaper article – and admit that I’m not really sure what ‘Fake News’ is.

I often wonder if the complaints about ‘Fake News’ are themselves fake and just a clever distraction to take the public’s eye off therealstory that might shine a spotlight on the misconduct of whoever’s complaining about ‘Fake News’.

It’s a possibility . . .

While I’m unsure what ‘Fake News’ is, I know that ‘Incorrect News’ is down to inadequate research, as illustrated by the recent story featured on social media stating that Ed Sheeran was spotted in a well know Swansea Uplands pub on the Friday evening prior to his performance at the Big Weekend music festival.

Wrong!

It appears that this was a well-orchestrated stunt and, in all fairness, the desired effect was achieved.

It turns out he was actually doing his shopping in Aldi, Llansamlet.
It fooled me as well as thousands of other people.

I don’t know what to believe anymore.

Well, now is probably the time to reveal that Phil Evans is actually a completely made up name, there is no such person and my name is actually Barbara, 73 from Llanelli.

Or is it?

Health can be all in the head

Our media’s approach to mental illness, from OCD (Obsessive–compulsive disorder) to post-natal depression, is much more sympathetic and informative than it used to be . . .

Today, newspapers, radio and television openly discuss it, just like any other medical condition.

A decent night’s sleep is vital for our mental well-being.

Yet a recent survey revealed one third of Britons are so job-stressed, they check work e-mails several times during the night.

And, for 75% of the population, worries about debt, unemployment and other issues come to the fore at bedtime. The next day they’re so tired and even more stressed that the cycle of anxiety continues.

Today, showbiz celebrities and sporting personalities have no qualms about revealing their struggles with depression, when once they’d have been reluctant to. From the great clown Joseph Grimaldi to Spike Milligan and Paul Merton, comedians are particularly vulnerable to mental fragility as they face rejection every time they stand up in front of the public.

I always try to be supportive and encouraging to my fellow performers, despite the fact that the world of comedy can lack professional respect.

We somehow learn to cope with life’s highs and lows. But, if we suffer a relentless run ofbad luck without respite, it takes a very strong person not to become so depressed they’re unable to see that a brighter future is possible.

Having a partner, family member or friend who is understanding, uplifting and prepared to really listen to your problems is incredibly important at these times.

You may not believe their positive advice at first, but, as things gradually improve, you’ll remember their words and be grateful for them.

Mental illness has no boundaries of class, age or occupation.

If I’m ever affected by it, I hope someone out there will say, “Phil. It’s okay. We understand.  This will pass, we’ll get through it together and all will be well.”
And that will be the moment I begin my recovery . . .

Feelgood factor down on the farm!

There are countless things we can do to make ourselves feel good.

I’m not exaggerating. They really are countless, so don’t try counting them all because by the time you’ve finished, you’ll be feeling less than good.

Here are some examples of things we can do to feel good.

We could go for a stroll through our beautiful countryside.
We could make a donation to charity.
We could have a nice cup of tea.
“But how is this possible?” I hear you ask.

It’s called Open Farm Sunday and it’s the one day a year when hundreds of farmers open their gates to the public, allowing them a rare glimpse into the day-to-day running of a working farm.

One Carmarthenshire farm opening to the public on June 10, from 12 noon to 4 pm, is in Esgair, Llanpumsaint, near Carmarthen.

New for this year is a fantastic self-guided nature trail. The owners, Nicky and Martin, will allow visitors in to see their cattle and pigs, and also shine a light on what they deliver and why supporting British farming matters.

When you’re worn out from all these activities, you can enjoy a cuppa and a chat. Entry is free, but if you’d like to make a donation to Macmillan Cancer Care (and why wouldn’t you?) it would be greatly appreciated.

So on June 10,  treat yourselves to a taste of life down on the farm, just don’t forget to close the gate when you leave!

If you want to find out where the closest one is to you, just visit the website  www.openfarmsunday.org  and put in your postcode.

Did I miss something important?

On Saturday mornings, when I wander around the millionaire’s playground of Ammanford, I visit the same places in the exact same order every week, otherwise I feel unsettled.

Don’t laugh. We all have our funny little ways.
You’ve just remembered what yours are, haven’t you?

First thing on Saturdays, I fill up at the petrol station – they have a wide selection of hot snacks and pastries – before shopping at the supermarket.
Then I stop at the newsagents for my newspaper, before buying cod and chips at the chippy.

Obviously, if I did these things in the wrong order, I could end up eating fish and chips out of my newspaper while pushing a supermarket trolley.

But on May 19th, I felt really unsettled.

I was the only customer at the petrol station. On a Saturday!

The supermarket had so few shoppers, the unoccupied check-out girls were gossiping and yawning. That gives you some idea how exciting their gossip was.

I also felt unsettled at the usually busy chippy, because there was only one other customer and he wore a Union Jack top hat, Union Jack suit, Union Jack bow-tie and Union Jack boots.

Okay, he might have been in some weird Spice Girls ’n’ Slademash-up tribute band, but I decided not to ask and hurried home with my cod and chips.

I felt I was missing out on something important that was keeping people at home, which I found very frustrating.

But not as frustrating as the traffic on the M4 later in the day as I drove to a gig just outside Windsor.

It took me more than four hours to get there.
I don’t usually like performing at wedding do’s – but the happy couple and their families gave me a right royal reception.

As for their house? Honestly, it was like a palace . . .

Great advancement – but are things better?

Isn’t this time of year uplifting?

It’s much easier to wake up in the morning when the sun is streaming through the window and the birds are singing.

Having said that, it’s not easy getting a good night’s sleep in a strange bed.
This week’s column comes to you from a hotel room a long way from home. Life on the road is far from glamorous.

Last night, the maid in my hotel room just turned my bed down. She’s not the first woman to do that either.

Traveling and being away from home has become a way of life, but modern technology has helped in such a way that staying in touch with family and friends is easier than ever.

I regularly Skype call my Cocker Spaniel when I’m away.
How times have changed over the past 20 years . . .

Think about it, we didn’t have all this technology back then. It was so much harder to stay in touch. Or was this a good thing? Did we talk more face to face?

Technology may be moving on, but things are far from perfect.
The traffic in our towns and cities remain a battleground and seem to be getting worse.

Swansea, Llanelli and even Ammanford have turned into a war zone recently and there are many frustrated drivers, including myself, close to breaking point.

I remember my grandad always used to say, “You’ve got to pick your battles.”
Which is why he was dishonourably discharged from the Army.

This really is a study in silliness

In the mood for a story?

Then I’ll begin . . .

One day, Mister Sillyread a silly newspaper article that was much sillier than the silliest thing he’d ever done.

It was a study by the University Of Lincoln into the Mister Menand Little Missbooks, created by Roger Hargreaves 47 years ago and which have sold more than 120 million copies.

Bizarrely, the study branded the books ‘sexist’ because the female characters are less powerful than the males – no doubt Mister Strongcame in for particular criticism – and the Little Misses are saved by the Mister Men in more thanhalfof their stories, while the Mister Men are only saved in one thirdof them.

Furthermore, the female characters were given an average of 53.5 wordsin their stories while the male characters had 61.5.

Remember, your taxes helped pay for this national scandal to be uncovered!
Reality check!

Hundreds of children’s stories feature a ‘damsel in distress’ rescued by the proverbial ‘knight in shining armour’.

Adult female fiction often replaces ‘knights’ with ‘handsome young doctors’ and no-one complains.

Except perhaps uglyyoung doctors.

This forensically-detailed research was done by academics with degrees that entitle them to engage in highly specialised work . . . like analysing every word in books written for very small children.

The University’s website states that it is engaged in ‘world-leading research projects’ and in the latest national research assessments it received a £2 million additionalincrease.

If that’s only a ‘top-up’, what’s their totalincome and why is it being used to denigrate much-loved children’s characters who’ll be treasured long after these findings have been filed away and forgotten?

In the wake of this ludicrously pointless study, I’ve got an idea for two new books in the series . . .

“Little Miss I Really Should Get A Proper Job” & “Mister Some Academics Have Far Too Much Time On Their Hands”.

THE END

Show some respect and give us balanced debate

Do you have an opinion?

Does it matter?

The world is constantly changing and so are opinions, which we often find challenging due to the fact that we also have our own opinions.

We are fortunate to be living in a country that, in the main, grants us freedom of speech and more and more people are now stepping up to the plate and confidently speaking up, which can so often be a double-edged sword.

We have discovered that social media is great for putting your opinion across, but it also gives idiots a voice, too . . . far too often without any repercussions.

This, in itself, is a modern day curse and I have personally witnessed the downside to such shenanigans.

Friendly debate will soon be a thing of the past, if our politicians, world and industry leaders don’t control their emotions and show evidence of professional respect, while setting an example for generations to come.
Education is key for a balanced debate and there IS always two sides to an argument (did you see what I did there?).

As a comedian I’m often asked, “What happens to jokes that aren’t funny? Well, they become politicians!”