The Edinburgh Comedy Festival

Highlight from a festival which keeps getting better

This week’s column comes to you from the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, sat watching the world go by in a small café in the heart of the ancient city.

Here we have an arts festival that just keeps gaining momentum and I’m convinced that this year will show record attendance from tourists from all over the world.

The comedy festival seems as if it’s taken over Scotland and local businesses are greatly benefiting from the attendees.

Who said that the arts don’t add value to the economy? It’s not true.

In addition to this, there are performers from all over the world, desperately trying to make an impact and pull in crowds to see their shows and hopefully secure some good reviews at the same time.

The place is buzzing with energy and we are witnessing some amazing creative talent.

One of my highlights was friend Terry Victor and his one man show, Well Thumbed.

The premise of the show is simple, it’s outrageous stand-up literature , as Terry enthusiastically thumbs through the contents of a respectable library in search of the mucky bits.

As Arts Scene in Wales describes it, “A show, I imagine, that would have Mary Whitehouse spinning in her chastity belt!”

Theatre in Wales has described Terry as “one of life’s larger than life characters, out of the Brian Blessed mould. He has quick wit and a sharp delivery.”

For me, this was a very proud moment and to see people doing well with a talent they were born with is one of life’s great blessings.

The show is at Whitespace 76 – Venue 375 at 9.00 pm.

Watch out, scammers about!

The South Wales Evening Post recently reported two very different scams happening around the Swansea area.

The first involved fake ‘missed delivery’ cards being put through people’s letter boxes informing them that ‘Royal Mail’ had tried to deliver a parcel. Of course, Royal Mail knew nothing about it.

Householders were instructed to telephone an 0208 number and pay a processing and delivery fee of £10 by credit card – at which point you might have smelt a rat, but many didn’t.

Some who fell for the scam were also landed with a telephone bill of £45.

The other scam involved e-mails allegedly sent out from a well-known Swansea hotel asking people who’d made reservations for their credit card details – which, of course, the hotel would never do.

Scams are becoming more sophisticated. Last week, a writer friend received an e-mail from his mobile phone provider informing him his August bill was more than £400. He normally pays £18!

In a panic, he called the phone number on the e-mail and went through the identical procedure he normally did. Even the automatic female voice instructions about what buttons to press were the same.

After he’d waited in a queue for five minutes, the female voice suggested he left his phone number and 4-digit pass code and he would be called back.

So, he did as suggested. It was only when he took a closer look at the phone bill that he realised it had a slightly different heading to previous bills – and the phone number was also different.

He immediately phoned his actual mobile provider, explained what had happened and was horrified to be told that the e-mail he’d received was a scam.

He was assured that no one had tried to use his phone and was given a new 4-digit code. But . . . although he’s no fool, he was a victim of scammers.

So be aware. They’re everywhere!

TV’s giving a false impression

When I was a lad, my gran warned me that watching too much television would harm my eyes.

As young boys tend to, I ignored her and absorbed as much of the three channels our 17” telly offered as I could.

We were content with BBC One & Two and ITV as there always seemed to be something ‘great’ to watch – especially on a Saturday night.

The deterioration of TV programme quality since a mind-boggling selection of channels was thrust upon us – I don’t remember asking for them, do you? – will be the subject of a future article, I’m sure….

I had no idea my gran was a fortune teller able to look into the future as far as 2017.  Because it’s only this year that TV started to harm my eyes – to such an extent, when I hear the theme music to certain shows I take the precaution of putting on my sunglasses before damage can be inflicted on my retinas.

If you’ve watched any breakfast TV show, all-women lunchtime talk show or early evening ‘topical’/consumer-style show, your eyesight will also have been in danger.

I can’t be the only person who’s noticed that dozens of British TV presenters have had their teeth chemically treated – or possibly sand-blasted – to such an incredible degree of gleaming white brightness, if ever their TV careers hit the rocks, they could obtain employment as light houses.

We’re used to everyone on American TV having perfect teeth, but here it’s a fairly recent phenomenon for presenters to open their mouths and dazzle us with perfect, blindingly white gnashers – and I find it a little spooky.

One female presenter’s smile is so supernaturally white she could open her mouth and illuminate the Channel Tunnel. Would I go in for the same treatment?

No. I’m much too long in the tooth.

We can all help improve people’s mental health

I’m shocked at the recent news surrounding mental health issues and increased suicide rates in Wales involving men.

This is a disturbing subject and thankfully many are now starting to speak up and highlight the problem.

But so many men find it hard to speak up and ask for help and to a point I can understand this.

On a regular basis I am reading articles surrounding this subject and am of the opinion that we are all vulnerable to mental health challenges at various points in our lives. If not personally, then someone close to us.

How can we make it easier for people to speak out? Can we help and do more?

Having witnessed family members on high doses of medication to help mental health conditions, I have seen the downside first hand.

Medication that is only to be taken for a short time is taken for years and this again has knock on effects.

Good company, support from friends and family makes such a huge difference to many, unfortunately many are isolated and alone and finding help seems too difficult.

Continued awareness is key and an ability to recognise where and when help is needed. Together we can make a difference.

Is this a shock to the system?

A shock to the system

It’s been announced that rail electrification between London and South Wales will stop at Cardiff Central – although no-one is prepared to predict at the precise time it’ll come to a halt.

Having taken the train to Paddington and back on more occasions I can remember, there’s every chance it’ll be delayed because of a signal failure between Reading and Didcot Parkway, a cow on the line outside Swindon and the possibility of a nervous little train refusing to move out of the safety of the Severn Tunnel and on into Newport in case it has its wheels stolen while waiting in the station for two minutes.

It’s okay. I have friends in Newport. They can take a joke. Well, you’d be exactly the same if you lived there.

As soon it was announced rail electrification would stop at Cardiff, a lot of people around here got themselves into a lather, complaining that yet again Swansea was being overlooked; rejected; ignored – choose any verb you like –  and that, over the decades, various things stopped at Cardiff and didn’t come to Swansea – like the Welsh Assembly Government.

Then again, a lot of people are relieved it didn’t come here.

Another complaint was the Beatles never performed in Swansea!

I honestly don’t think the Fab Four deliberately snubbed the city any more than they did hundreds of other places they didn’t get around to visiting during the short period they toured the UK.

After 50 years, I think it’s time we let that one go, don’t you?

The thing is, even if rail electrification does stop at Cardiff, the brand spanking new hybrid electric-diesel trains will still be travelling on from Cardiff to Swansea (and back!) so what are we really missing out on?

Let’s enjoy the new, smooth rail travel experience. At least until we get to Didcot Parkway.

High Price Family Holidays

High price to pay for enjoying family holidays together!

The cost of holidays have rocketed again, making it far too expensive for many parents to go and enjoy family time together.

It has been well documented that some holidays are between two and six times more expensive during the peak school holiday periods.

The majority of the public see this as exploitation – and who can blame them?

Many get into debt and end up paying huge rates of interest for the privilege of borrowing, which is an added cost to an already over-inflated holiday break.

Gone are the days where many valley folk would venture to Porthcawl and Barry Island during miners’ fortnight to spend two weeks in an old, damp and mouldy caravan, where the whole family had to walk half a mile to the other side of the site to visit the toilet and have a cold shower.

Not to mention the carrying of the water butt back to ensure a supply of tea, coffee and squash.

And all this took place, more often than not, in the rain. The two-week holiday in Wales back then prepared us for outdoor pursuits and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

I can’t say that I miss those days, but I’m sure many readers would agree that it was all very character building and gave us some amazing memories and stories to pass on to the younger generation.

Naked ambition for surgery

When people say, “I’ve heard it all now!” it’s doubtful that they have.

For example, only hardcore opera fans – the equivalent of movie nerds who watch the sort of 1950s ‘B’ picture featuring a man in a rubber monster suit destroying a cardboard model of Swansea Civic Centre – can claim to have heard Bluebeard’s Castle by Bela Bartok in the original Hungarian. No. I haven’t either. Let’s put it on our “To Do” list.

If you think you’ve “Heard it all”, let me tell you about a recent item on breakfast telly I found so shocking, I sprayed coffee through my nose – which was odd because I was drinking tea at time.

Scientists revealed that operating theatres would be far more hygienic if surgeons, anaesthetists and nursing staff were naked!

Apparently, nude surgeons – which sounds like a Swedish film I saw in a Cardiff fleapit in 1979 – shed significantly less bacteria than those wearing scrubs, which rub against the skin, causing bacteria to fall off and spread through the air.

So, naked surgery would be healthier. Excuse me?

It’s traumatic enough to be wheeled into an operating theatre and confronted by a group of strangers eager to slice you open.

How much more unsettled would you feel if they were all stark naked?

If you were put to sleep, you might wake up thinking you’d had a weird dream.

But if you’d had an epidural, you’d be continually aware of naked bodies all around you, while praying none of them bent down to pick up a dropped scalpel.

If naked surgery happens, surgeons should still wear surgical masks.

Then you’d only recognise them at a later date if you bumped into them on a nudist holiday!

Which, coincidentally, was the title of another film I saw at the same Cardiff fleapit!

Can a solution be found to make it easier and safer?

I once read that “life is a journey and not a destination”. Well, if you think about this long enough it will challenge your thinking for sure.

This past week has been one continuous journey for me – Swansea, Bridgend, Cardiff and Northampton . . . and a few pit stops in-between.

When I set out, I decided to treat the journey as a bit of an adventure, like I tend to do with most things.

However, due to the change in travelling conditions and the volume of traffic on our motorways (with the majority of drivers eager to get somewhere fast), the journey was far from enjoyable at times.

No less than five major car accidents in three days, with fire brigade, ambulance and police in attendance.

A delayed journey was the least of our problems as these were serious incidents and the M4 was turned into a car park.

Driving isn’t getting any easier for most of us and motorways and modern day roundabouts can be as confusing as Brexit negotiations.

Will it ever get easier and safer to travel?

Is there a solution to this?

Statistics show that its safer to fly. However, I’ve just seen the news: air traffic controllers have voiced their concern about the volume of flights above us. Where will it all end?

Technology is just alien to me…

Dinosaurs still rule the earth, so call me Mr T.Rex.

I recently read a fascinating article in the New Scientist magazine (I buy it for the Heavenly Bodies on Page Three) commenting on the astonishing advances in technology that have occurred in a relatively short period.

Geologists claim the Earth is 4.543 billion years old, yet it’s only in the last couple of hundred years that that amazing things like the electric light bulb, radio, telephones, cinema, television and Krispy Kreme doughnuts were invented.

In the blink of Time’s eye we moved from walking around in tiger-skin leotards catching voles for supper (to make ra-vole-oli!) to driving around in Model-T Fords.

Was the Industrial Revolution secretly spear-headed by aliens who planted genius ideas into the minds of (among others) Sir Humphrey Davy, Thomas Edison and the bloke who created soft toilet paper, in order to speed-up our scientific progress?

Many think that’s the only explanation.

Then again, many people watch “Love Island” – and there’s no explanation for that.

Today, unless you keep up with every technological advancement – such a person is officially known as a ‘geek’ – you’re considered a dinosaur.

This was brought home to me when talking to a young relative about a newspaper article that claimed many hotels will soon dispense with key cards.

People will be able to access their rooms using their mobile phones.

I made the mistake of saying, “That’ll never happen. What if you don’t own a mobile phone?”

When she looked at me with such a baffled expression you’d swear I’d spoken in some ancient Sumerian language, I realised she was completely unable to grasp the concept of someone not owning a mobile phone.

As mobile phones have only been around for 20 years, I think we may have had a second visit from those intelligence-enhancing aliens.

But if they called at my house, I must have been out!

Will having an unhealthy body really lead to a healthy mind?

Do we go for an unhealthy body to have a healthy mind?

I have been browsing through the news recently during my morning coffee and, to my surprise, as I took the first bit of my breakfast multi grain, fibre filled, gluten free, wheat free chocolate muffin, I found an article which I found truly fascinating.

Apparently, middle aged people who are obese are far less likely to suffer from dementia related illnesses when they reach their twilight years.

Now this got me thinking: are the professionals now telling us that its OK to be overweight because it will lead to a healthy mind in the future?

Is this not totally the opposite of what we’ve been told previously – that being overweight is unhealthy?

Not long ago, alcohol was bad for you, then a report came out that a glass of red wine every evening (if you are over 60) is good for you, so I have come to this conclusion: life is too sort to worry about everything all of the time, “everything in moderation” is my new motto.

A cake now and then, a glass of wine here and there, some exercise and lots of cwtshes and laughter. Now I do think I may be on to something here….