The value of a white lie

We’re continually bombarded with ‘helpful’ statistics and expert information on how we should live our lives.

Invariably, sometime later another bunch of experts announce that the previous advice should be taken with a pinch of salt . . . unless you’re on a low sodium diet.

For example – the five ‘pieces’ of fruit and veg we’ve been encouraged to eat every day were recently declared inadequate and increased to ten.

That’s a lot. Who sponsored this new research?

The Grand Order Of Fruit’N’Veg Stallholders?

The line, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics”, was coined by Benjamin Disraeli, which is ironic, coming from a politician!

We’re told ‘lies and damn lies’ all the time, but we don’t get annoyed or incandescent with rage (I’ve always wanted to slip that expression into an article!) because we don’t realise we’re being lied to.

For example . . .Last Friday, while staring at my PC, desperately trying to think of a subject for this week’s column, I telephoned a restaurant to book a table for Saturday night. Obviously, as well as a table, when I got there I’d also expect to find chairs, crockery, glasses and food and drink.

Comedians are SO demanding . . .

When the restaurateur finished taking my booking she said, “I hope you have a lovely evening.”

Later, I realised she wasn’t referring to the evening I intended spending in her restaurant. She was referring to that very evening.

I’d never met the lady, so why would she care two hoots whether my evening was lovely or lousy?

The truth is, she didn’t care. It was a meaningless pleasantry she thought her customers would like to hear. In other words . . . a white lie.

Accidentally, she’d handed me the subject for this article that I needed.

So I did end up having a lovely evening!

Welsh Factor talented performers made a great night

The weeks are flying by and I can’t seem to remember the last time I spent two consecutive nights at home relaxing and watching TV.

Not that I’m complaining; it’s nice to be in demand and one of the highlights of last week was watching the talented finalists of the Welsh Factor competition, held at the Manor Park Country Club, Clydach.

And what a night it was. If you were there, you too would have witnessed a night jam packed with talent from all over Wales, including singers, dancers, stage and performing arts schools.

It’s safe to say that all the contestants that made it to the final of this competition are on their way to making it big in the entertainment industry.

In the under 12 category, Lauren May receive a standing ovation for her amazing voice.

The duo category went to two extremely hard working and polished dancers, ‘2 Unique.

There was one dance group that made the hairs at the back of my neck stand up, Ceili Dancers, with choreography to a standard seen at the West End.

My column space prevents me from mentioning all the category winners at this time, but rest assured I will have more tales to share in the months to come.

Was a £600 penalty highway robbery?

I never understood what people meant when they said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” until a week or so ago when I read about a Llanelli man who last July painted “Happy Birthday“ (plus his girlfriend’s name) in the middle of his street.

The message came from the heart and the paint came straight from B & Q. Other paint suppliers are available, by the way.

He must have done it when there was no traffic around, otherwise a passing lorry might have squashed his plans . . . and everything else.

The man gave away his identity by signing it, “Love Dai”, followed by a drawing of a heart and a large ‘X’.

Either he didn’t realise that painting words two-foot long on a stretch of tarmac is just as anti-social as writing them two-foot high on a wall, or he didn’t care. In any case, that birthday greeting got him into such a deep mess that last month he ended up with a £600 fine!

How matters got that crazy would take ages to explain, so here’s the short version . . .

When originally confronted about his act of vandalism, he admitted he’d done it and received a £75 fixed penalty fine . . . which he failed to pay. He was then prosecuted for ‘Making unauthorised marks on the highway’ (Dogs do that every day and get away with it) but he didn’t turn up at court.

In his absence, he was fined £220, plus £351 costs and a £30 ‘victim surcharge’. Err . . . excuse me, M’lud!

Who was the ‘victim’ in this matter? The road?

This July, hopefully ‘Dai’ will wish his girlfriend ‘Happy Birthday’ the traditional way – with a card – while wondering why in 2016 he didn’t think things through before he bought the tin of paint, became overcome with emulsion and had his ‘brush’ with the Law.

Attitude is so refreshing in this day and age

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting the BNI Business Awards held at the Diplomat Hotel, Llanelli.

This was their very first awards dinner for the Llanelli Business Network International group.

The group has been established and has served the local community for more than nine years.

In addition to this, the generous businessmen and women and their guests raised a substantial amount of money for the MIND charity, which is supported by the members.

The award recipients were: Gareth Isaac of G I Carpets and Flooring, John Lewis, of Tegeus Computer Services and Graeme Fox, of Davies Craddock insurance brokers. True contributors and well-deserving winners.

This event clearly demonstrated to me that we have so many hard working ambassadors within our communities that have a hugely supportive and professional network behind them.

This group has a clear aim to serve the community and help local businesses thrive and grow so that they can reach their true potential.

They demonstrate a ‘Givers Gain’ mentality which in this day and age is so refreshing to witness.

Accordion thefts? That’s quite a racket

Feeling low? The state of the world getting you down?

Then let me try and cheer you up . . .

What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians? A drummer!

That’s a favourite joke among musicians – though not with those who hit a percussion instrument for a living.

Musicians have a jokey definition of ‘Perfect Pitch’ – which is ‘throwing an accordion into a skip without touching the sides’.

From the laugh-out-loud reaction that joke always receives, I was convinced that there’s little love around for the accordion these days.

So, I was very surprised to read a report in this newspaper about a man with possible links to Port Talbot who the police want to interview about the theft of accordions with a total value of £150,000 from a music shop in Berkshire.

The fact that someone broke into a music shop and (out of all the instruments on display) decided to steal accordions is in itself rather strange.

But it turns out he broke into the same shop twice and stole accordions both times!

Last August, his haul totalled £130,000 and, more recently, he nicked another £20,000 worth of instruments!

Why someone was so fixated on stealing these instruments puzzled me at first.

Then it dawned on me the man isn’t a common or garden burglar – although they are about, so make sure your shed is always locked.

He’s really a philanthropist who intends distributing them to all the buskers in our towns and cities.

Well, be honest, you’ve heard enough street accordionists struggling to get a recognisable melody out of their battered, wheezing ‘squeeze boxes’ and failing.

That’s not just because they failed their music theory exams.

It’s mainly due to the fact their instruments are really very ancient and missing several buttons that are vital to help them play in tune.

But soon they’ll be replaced by shiny new ones with all the buttons intact, thanks to the mysterious man with ‘possible’ links to Port Talbot.

Will they get rid of the old ones by throwing them in a skip, trying not to touch the sides?

That’s why Welshmen like playing the goat..

What’s special about St David’s Day?

Saint David was born towards the end of the 5th century. He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (The Vale of Roses) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today.

The date of Saint David’s death is recorded as 1st of March. The year, however, is uncertain, but it’s thought to be around 601.

That’s round about the same time as the news starts at teatime in Wales. For centuries, March 1st has been a national festival.

Indeed, the 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how Welsh celebrations in London for Saint David’s Day would spark wider counter-celebrations among their English neighbours and life-sized effigies of Welshmen were symbolically hung.

By the 18th century, the custom had arisen of confectioners producing “taffies”— gingerbread figures baked in the shape of a Welshman riding a goat on Saint David’s Day.

This tradition can often be seen re-enacted in Ammanford on a Saturday night. Happy St David’s Day.

The selfie generation should take a long hard look at themselves

When I recently visited London for the first time in almost a year I couldn’t believe how tourist behaviour had changed.

Instead of taking photographs of their family/friends in front of famous landmarks, most visitors were taking ‘selfies’ using ‘selfie sticks’.

It doesn’t just occur in London. This ever-growing madness of taking selfies goes on everywhere . . . maybe in your neighbourhood. So be vigilant!

Because selfie-takers are narcissists who don’t consider that taking pointless selfie-after-selfie of themselves in the same position is annoying to people around them. I know you like me to give you an example . . .

A friend of mine went to see the “Peter Pan” pantomime at Cardiff’s New Theatre during the last week of the run.

The pantomime was excellent, but before the curtain was raised he was unintentionally involved in a pre-show show.

Two very excitable (i.e. annoying) young women in the row immediately in front of him took at least 20 selfies of themselves using a mobile phone that utilised a flash mode, like an old-style camera.

So, every time they put their empty heads together to take another selfie he had to suffer this bright flash.

They did exactly the same during the interval. Why? So they could look at all the ‘photos later and say, “That’s us sat in a theatre. That’s also us sat in a theatre. And that one is . . . us sat in a theatre!”

The official dictionary definition of a ‘Selfie’ is . . .

“A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.”

While the dictionary definition of “Selfish” is . . .

“Of a person, action, or motive lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”

Which not only neatly describes the ‘look at me’ brigade addicted to selfies, it also adds weight to my unofficial definition of a ‘Selfie Stick’ . . .

“A big piece of wood that people not addicted to taking pointless photographs of themselves every minute of the day should be legally entitled to bring down heavily on the heads of those self-obsessed individuals who are.”

It’s breathtaking out here on the piste

This week’s column has come to you from the top of a glacier in Gressoney, a beautiful part of Italy.

The views are breath-taking and this puts me in the ideal mood to come up with some creative writing without any distractions.

We are 2,608 metres above sea level, snow has fallen almost every day for the past month and continues to do so.

Transportation is good, buses and cars are running as normal. The local shops are well stocked with fresh food. Bread and milk are in abundance and there is no sign of any panic buying.

The temperature here is well below freezing, but the local residents and visitors alike are thoroughly enjoying the winter season and all that it brings.

Clearly, if this was happening back home, we would all be in shut down mode and a state of chaos and panic. Right, that’s enough taking the piste, I’m off to build a snowman!

Sad but strange

When two well-known people die on the same day, the person who gets more coverage in the newspapers and the TV and Radio news is often the one who deserves it the least . . . in my humble opinion, I hasten to add.

On February the 8th, an elderly man and a much younger woman, who were high profile in entirely different fields, both died.

He was 87-year old Alan Simpson, one half of the legendary comedy-writing team of Galton and Simpson who not only created the first British television sitcom “Hancock’s Half Hour” in the 1950s but then went on to even greater heights in the 1960s with “Steptoe And Son” which regularly attracted 18 million viewers. American TV made their own version called “Sanford and Son”.

The prolific Galton and Simpson also wrote films including the hilarious “The Wrong Arm Of The Law”, starring Peter Sellers; “The Rebel”, starring Tony Hancock; and two “Steptoe and Son” spin-offs – plus hundreds of episodes of radio and TV sitcoms.

The young woman who died on the same day – who I won’t name in case any readers knew her or felt some affinity with her – was described in her obituaries as a ‘socialite’.

I wasn’t aware of what a socialite does for a living . . . so I looked it up.

The thousands of pounds that Mater and Pater spent on my years at Eton weren’t wasted were they?

It turns out that a socialite isn’t actually a job description.

It refers to a person who’s well known in fashionable society and fond of social activities and entertainment. So, there’s no chance I’ll ever be called a socialite.

As she didn’t have a career, presumably the lady was able to maintain her fun lifestyle because she came from a rich family. Another reason I’ll never be called a socialite.

While many newspapers splashed on the young woman’s passing on their front and inside pages, they relegated Alan’s demise to a paragraph around page 20. It’s a funny old world, to be sure.

During the decades he created timeless, classic comedy, Alan Simpson helped to make it so.

Well, someone needs to point this stuff out.

Should we do more for the environment?

I’ve heard it all now. Prince Charles – aka the Prince of Wales, aka the Heir to the Throne –  has called on us all to put two bins in our bathrooms to help recycling.

Now I don’t know how big his bathroom is, but if I did that I wouldn’t be able to fit in the bathroom.

Absolutely ridiculous, many would say, but there are others that would agree I’m sure.

Dumping all our rubbish in one bin has become a thing of the past, fines for doing this are on the increase and the recycling police are extremely vigilant at the local ‘amenity site’, aka the recycling plant.

I paid them a visit myself on Sunday morning and witnessed dozens of people strategically disposing of their domestic waste in no less that 12 separate containers.

This was something of an event in itself and something that many are now doing on a regular basis.

Has this now replaced Sunday morning church or a walk in the park?

We do live in interesting times.