Archive for the ‘Welsh humor’ Category

Double Top

Saturday, August 14th, 2021

My dad was a great dart player. He and my grandfather won the  Swansea Hancock’s Dart League doubles title in 1947/48. That was no mean feat. Darts was the undisputed pub game in the country. It would be decades before pool tables were installed in pubs, and very few, if any, pubs in Swansea had skittles alleys. Trivia Quiz leagues were a figment of somebody’s imagination back in the 1940s. My dad’s favorite shot was ‘treble 19.” Some darts connoisseurs would argue that he should have aimed for the maximum number of points, “three treble twenties,’ giving you a total of 180. Nevertheless it’s difficult to criticize a player who regularly scored 171.

I once asked my dad for advice on how to improve my dart game, but he wasn’t very forthcoming. It was probably similar to asking George Best or Ivor Allchurch how to play football, or seeking Fred Trueman’s advice on how to bowl fast, or asking Tiger Woods how to play golf. They all had one thing in common. They had a God given talent for excelling at a sport, but they were unable to explain to lesser mortals how to do it. Basically throwing darts accurately came naturally to my dad and grandfather. By all accounts, my grandfather (who  unfortunately passed away before I was born) was a bit of a hustler. He would go down to the pub with only enough money  in his pocket to buy one pint, put his name on the board to play the winner of the previous darts game. Losers were obliged to buy the winner a pint who remained on the oche to play the next opponent. Sometimes my grandfather would have an early night by losing his first match, but invariably he  enjoyed many raucous nights and several free pints when he was unbeatable.

They both played in a darts team in the Hancocks League for a pub called The Jersey Arms which was situated in the Hafod, best described as a blue collar district on the outskirts of the old town centre. A darts team comprised eight players who would compete with other pub teams over  a best of five legs. Each leg comprised 501 points with a double to start and a double to finish. Each player would take turns to throw three darts until one team ended the leg with an appropriate double.

My uncle Phil was the landlord of the Bevans Arms in Morriston, and quite often my dad would play  darts for my uncle’s pub team. My mum would sometimes serve behind the bar to help my uncle if he was short staffed while my dad played darts. One week, the team was a player short , and my dad persuaded my mum to make up the numbers which she reluctantly did. She was very short sighted, but vanity prohibited her from wearing glasses which she usually kept in her handbag.

A couple of hours had elapsed and the teams were level with two legs apiece. My mum had barely hit the dart board never mind trouble the scorers when the final and deciding leg began. The teams matched each other in reducing the 501 to reasonable proportions until they were both left with doubles to win the leg and the match. My mum was next up for the Bevans Arms and my dad pointed to the double twenty (DOUBLE  TOP,) and said: “aim for the top of the board Vi.” Her first two darts didn’t even hit the dartboard, but her third and final dart sailed miraculously into the small segment they call double top. The pub’s clientele erupted into joyous raptures, but my mum returned to her place behind the bar serving pints of Trumans ale, and exclaimed: “Never Again!”

In Dreams I Walk with You

Friday, October 13th, 2017

I had a recurring dream the other night where somebody kept asking me in which year Lester Piggott won the Derby on Affirmed. Lester Piggott was one of the greatest flat race jockeys in the world, arguably the greatest. He won the Derby an unprecedented nine times, and I kept repeating that Piggott never rode Affirmed. Affirmed was an American horse ridden by an American jockey, Steve Cauthen, who won the triple crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes) on Affirmed in 1977.

My tormenter then challenged me to name the horses that Piggott rode to win the Derby nine times. For the record Steve Cauthen won the Derby twice with Slip Anchor and Reference Point, making him the only jockey to win the Kentucky Derby and the Epsom Derby. I could only remember two of the horses that Piggott rode to victory; Nijinsky and Sir Ivor. I tossed and turned for the remainder of the night trying to recall the names of the other horses to no avail.

Mercifully, morning arrived and Google, aided and abetted by Wikipedia, came to my rescue I was able to look up an article  which listed the maestro’s winners and  Lester Piggott commented on his nine wins in the Derby:

1. NEVER SAY DIE (1954, 33-1)
He was a left-handed horse and not nearly so good when he raced right.

2. CREPELLO (1957, 6-4 fav)
One of the two best horses I won the Derby on. He took the 2,000 Guineas but had bad legs and was hard for Sir Noel Murless to keep sound. He broke down when training for the St Leger and never ran again.

3. ST PADDY (1960, 7-1)
He was good and we knew that before he ran at York first time out as a two-year-old. But he ran away with me on the way to the post and had a race before he started. Next time out they put a gag on him and he won the Royal Lodge by five lengths. He was fourth in the Guineas, won the Dante and took the Derby by three lengths.

4. SIR IVOR (1968, 4-5 fav)
He had spent the winter in Italy before winning the Guineas and Derby. He then got beat in his next four races, but ended up winning the Champion Stakes and Washington International. I know he got beaten a few times, but of all my Derby winners he had the most brilliance about him.

5. NIJINSKY (1970, 11-8 fav)
He was the last horse to win the Triple Crown with the Irish Derby and King George thrown in for good measure, but I never thought it was a great year.

6. ROBERTO (1972 3-1 fav)
His win was overshadowed by controversy. Bill Williamson won the Guineas on him but was injured and I got on him. I couldn’t see him being beaten in the Irish Derby next time, but he only beat two home.

7. EMPERY (1976, 10-1)
Probably just a middle-class Derby winner in an average Classic crop.

8. THE MINSTREL (1977, 5-1)
He was pretty good and went on to win the Irish Derby – but it was only a so-so year for three-year-olds.

9. TEENOSO (1983, 9-2)
He was a bit better than people gave him credit for. It rained all day at Epsom, which turned the ground soft. He won very easily and, as my last winner, is one of my best recollections of the race.

I never had much interest in horse racing save for a flutter on the Grand National and the Derby. My late Dad however enjoyed a daily bet. Once he retired, his routine for the day was to study the racing form in the Daily Mirror, select his horses, and walk up to the “bookies” and place his bet which was usually “a Yankee.” He would then return home and watch the races on television in the afternoon.  He never used to bet much, so gambler’s anonymous were never troubled.  My ex father-in-law roughly followed the same ritual as my dad.

His little hobby once embarrassed my ex-wife who I was dating at the time. She was staying the night at a friend’s house on the posh side of Swansea, the Mayals. Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet)  in the sitcom “Keeping Up Appearances” could have been based on her friend’s mother. Anyway, during a conversation the mother asks my ex-wife: “Does your father have any hobbies, dear?” She replied: “Yes, horse racing.” “Oh really, how many does he own and where does he stable them?” The mortified girl replied: “He doesn’t own any horses, he bets on them!”


Goodbye to an old Friend

Friday, October 7th, 2016

I recently received news that an old friend of mine, Barrie Jones, had passed away on 17th August. I hadn’t seen Barrie in over 40 years, but for nearly 2 years (1972-74) he, David Owen and myself were virtually inseparable on weekends.

We must have hit practically every night club in South Wales. Our favorite haunts were usually Stoneleigh’s in Porthcawl on a Friday night and Jack Mason’s in Gorseinon on a Sunday night. I asked a girl to dance there once and she replied that she was “sweating a bit so ask me later when I’ve cooled off.”

David was a weightlifter and had represented Wales while Barry was a body builder. To say I looked puny in comparison would have been an understatement!!! We went on a  fortnight’s holiday to Yugoslavia  together in the summer of ’73 accompanied by another macho man Les Hale. Les was in his forties and was totally crestfallen when a young girl asked him if we were his three sons.

We stepped off the plane and walked down the stair case onto the blazing hot runway. The three amigos were wearing matching blazers while I was wearing my much maligned salmon pink denim suit with flared trousers and wide lapels. I should have worn a sign around my neck proclaiming: “I’m not gay, I just look pretty in pink!!!”

My memories of that trip were taking a hydro foil across to Venice for the day, and eating fabulous kebabs at a local restaurant. Oh, and the Germans nabbing all the deckchairs around the hotel pool first thing in the morning. I was later to discover that that they weren’t Germans but Danes.

Barrie didn’t say much; he was the strong and silent type. He had a fabulous sense of humor whenever he lowered his shield. He use to chauffeur us around in his ford Cortina to all the night spots in South Wales without a murmor of complaint.

I was with Barrie one Sunday night when he met his wife  at one of our favorite haunts, Jack Mason’s. David had broken the band of brothers by going on a date that evening and was not with us on that momentous occasion. Barry’s wife took an instant dislike to me probably because Barry and I were like chalk and cheese. I might also have been wearing the pants from my infamous suit  which would have been sufficient to put off any self respecting female.

Barrie had an unusual technique for a chat up line. He zoned in on a girl he was attracted to, and proceeded to stare at her in Rasputian fashion. Invariably the girl would  stomp across the floor towards him and demand: “Who do you think you looking at?” He would calmly reply: “You!!!” The bait was cast and the prey was caught.

Not to be outdone, I attempted the same method one night and began staring across  the dance floor at girl I thought reasonably attractive. Next thing I know, a great brute of man is snarling in my face: ” If you don’t stop staring at my girlfriend I’m going to punch your lights out.”

Barrie had a  blazing smile and a wicked laugh  and once he realized there was more to me than that damn pink suit we became great friends. Inevitably, it was not long before we were all seriously dating girls, and the band of brothers quickly disintegrated. But it was  a fun period in my life, even for such a short time, and I was grateful to have known Barrie and proud to have called him a friend.


The Ballet Recital

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

My daughter suggested I write a post about this incident, and therefore without further ado I dedicate the following lines to her. Maestro please…….

My four year old grand daughter was performing in a ballet recital. We had tickets for the show which was held in a compact rural theatre, and ran for approximately two hours. My grand daughter’s involvement comprised five minutes on stage because several ballet classes of various ages were represented, but like good troopers we stayed until the bitter end. Poor little mites; they all looked very cute in their tutus, ballerina tights and enough make up to put Joan Collins in the shade. But just as well we weren’t judging them on talent.

It all began very civilized. Accompanied by my stepson and his wife we embraced our positions which left me sitting in the inner most seat of the row immediately next to a brick wall. It could have comprised another material or compound, but in the scheme of things  the composition of the wall was irrelevant. It merely represented an obstacle to my subsequent actions.

Amidst a plethora of squealing the show  began with a series of groups of little girls treading the boards attempting to remember their allegro from their arabesque. It was all very sweet and melancholy until I needed to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately I am of an age where bathroom breaks are necessary more frequently than I care to remember.

Luckily, according to the programme, there would be an interval where dinosaurs like myself could avail themselves of the facilities. I was nearing the abyss where crossing my legs and stamping my feet were having little effect on my unfortunate predicament. Reciting the alphabet backwards sometimes helped in these uncompromising situations, but my mental faculties were zooming in on a very active bladder which was about to explode.

Finally the interval arrived and I quickly rose from my seat with every intent on heading for the nearest rest room. To my horror Tom, Dick and Harry and their family ensembles rose as one blocking the central aisle to the exit doors. The people sitting in my row weren’t aware of my plight and were in no hurry to leave their seats.

There was only one thing I could do. I would have to climb over the wall. This wasn’t just a wall; a four foot steel fence was perched on top. Stepping on the three foot wall was easy, so straddling the fence couldn’t be that difficult. Could it? Okay, I hitched one leg and my torso onto the top of fence, but my trailing foot was trapped between two railings.  I was frozen in time, and my aging joints were beginning to seize up and I was losing any trace of flexibility.

I suddenly yanked my foot out from the railing, and in doing so went crashing unceremoniously over the top of the fence landing in an undignified heap on the floor. Unfortunately when I hit the ground the momentum threw me back against the fence and I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder.

The adrenalin was flowing like a flooded Chattahoochee  River and coupled with my humiliation, I ignored the pain and bounced quickly up off the floor, not daring to look back at a packed house, and made a bee line for the exit door and the rest room.

A few minutes later, I bumped into my wife in the foyer and she furtively asked if I was okay. I replied that my shoulder was very sore, but it didn’t hurt half as much as my dignity! She then mischievously asked: “Was that an attempt at a pirouette, a western roll or a Fosby flop?”  I certainly didn’t score many marks for presentation or content, but I gather the entertainment value for a captive audience was priceless.



Two Cities Forever Linked

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Swansea City play Italian giants Napoli in the second leg of the Europa Cup tomorrow (Thursday 27th February,) but the two cities have been inextricably linked for over forty years. In 1974 Local Government was re-organized in England and Wales and the City of Swansea was afforded its first Planning Department. Previously, Planning operated under the umbrella of the Borough Engineer.

The Planning Department made the most of its new found status and appointed a Director ably supported by three Assistant Directors. It was commented more than once, however, that Director Maurice Howell had more ADs than Steven Spielberg. Anyway one of the Three Amigos was Sydney Roper who was responsible for Social Polices, and he had a penchant for the dramatics. He supervised the publication of many, many Interim Planning Statements, and in one of his preambles he compared the topography of Swansea to Rome because in his biopic vision they were both built on seven hills. Furthermore through his rose tinted lenses he likened Kilvey Hill to Mount Vesuvius which overlooks the City of Naples, and compared Mumbles Bay to (wait for it) The Bay of Naples; hence the connection (QED.)

Mr. Roper’s section resembled the de-coders at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Nobody knew exactly what they were doing, but they were very effective in creating a mist over their activities. One of his senior planners brought a red setter to work and her assistant’s job was to exercise the dog daily and give it food and water when necessary. Luckily for the assistant the beach and promenade were only a stone’s throw from the office, and he and the dog regularly availed themselves of the bracing sea air.

Where was I? Yes, I’m a Swansea Jack and I love the City. Not wishing to denigrate Kilvey Hill, but it has more of the trappings of a slag heap than a picturesque image of a mountain which is arguably the most famous volcano in the world. Don’t get me wrong. Kilvey dominates the East Side of the City and has a charm and character peculiar to its dockland setting. It’s favored by car thieves who regularly dump their booty of BMWs, Mercedes, Audis and possibly in the future Chico Flores’ Ferrari on the hilltop. A point of Clarification; it’s most definitely a hill and not a mountain. For further explanation on the difference between the two when you have nothing better to do, look up the movie starring Hugh Grant: “The Englishman Who went up a Hill and came down a Mountain.”

Now Mumbles Bay is a different kettle of fish given the right circumstances. It’s a beautiful and majestic Bay that curves around the coast for five miles from Swansea to Mumbles. Unfortunately Swansea is very tidal, and when the tide is out the Bay resembles a setting for the mud laden Battle of the Somme. Luckily when its high tide on a warm summer’s evening and the sun is setting over Mumbles lighthouse, the setting is magical and there’s none better.

But didn’t somebody tell Sydney the color of the water in the Bay of Naples was aqua blue compared to the shades of grey in Mumbles Bay? Hmm, shades of grey could be a good title for a book in the future.

Hopefully the small band of Swans supporters attending the away leg in Naples can cast a myopic eye over the Bay of Naples and visualize their beloved Mumbles Bay and pretend for a few hours that they never left home.  A few glasses of the local grog and vino could greatly enhance their imagination.

Jacks versus Taffs

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Sunday is a momentous day in the history of clashes between Cardiff City and Swansea City. This will be the first time ever that the two clubs will do battle in the top flight of English football. The very fact that the two Welsh Clubs are in the Premiership is nothing short of a miracle. Ten short years ago, the Swans were on the brink of extinction and nearly dropped down to the Conference League save for a win against Rochdale on the last day of the season.

Cardiff was in the doldrums for years under the dubious ownership of Sam Hamman and later Peter Risdale who nearly destroyed Leeds United. They are currently owned by a Malaysian gentleman who immediately discarded the historical blue and white strip along with the “Bluebirds” logo and substituted red shirts and a dragon. He claimed it was more Asian and would appeal to their new fans in the Orient.

Rivalry between the two cities transcends the world of sport. It extends to history, culture, politics and industry. Swansea and Cardiff are the two principal cities of Wales and for a time were vying for the rights to be recognized as the Country’s capital. The Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Walker, put paid to the bragging rights by introducing Government Policy to make Cardiff a show piece for Europe. Swansea was left to live on scraps and needless to say developed a chip on their shoulder.

People from Swansea are universally known (well maybe not in Atlanta, but I’m working on it) as Jacks in fond memory of a heroic dog called Swansea Jack who saved 37 people from drowning.  Cardiff inhabitants are referred to as Taffs which is named after the river that flows through the City.

Cardiff is now officially recognized as the Capital of the Nation, but Swansea has Dylan Thomas, Harry Secombe, and Katherine Zeta Jones and reached the summit that is the Premiership first. I guess by now you have noticed a bias towards Swansea which is not surprising since I was literally born within (practically underneath) the sound of High Street Station.

Cardiff was founded in 1899, but Swansea was not founded until 1912 when hostilities commenced. There have been 54 league games head to head. Cardiff have 18 wins, Swansea have 20 with 27 draws. Competitive head to head games since 1912 total 105 games. Cardiff has 43 wins compared to 35 Swansea wins with 27 draws.

Neither team has ever done the league double over the other despite having been in the same division for 27 seasons. The biggest win was Cardiff 5 Swansea 0. Two Swansea legends, Ivor Allchurch (3) and John Charles (2) scored the goals and The Swans were relegated to the old 3rd Division at the end of the season. John Charles never played for Swansea, but that doesn’t excuse his disservice to Swansea on that day.

I digress a little here, but I have two stories to share with you concerning Ivor and the Gentle Giant. In 1962 Newcastle had been relegated to the old 2nd Division and were playing a league game against the Swans at the Vetch under floodlights. I was a pimply adolescent and stationed behind the goal at the open end to achieve a better view. Newcastle was awarded a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. The Swans nervously built a wall (not literally crate head) to defend their goal. Harry Griffiths a contemporary of Ivor was screaming at his team mates: “A f****** wall won’t stop Ivor. He’ll bend the f****** ball around it.  Pause… I f****** told you” 1-0 to Newcastle.

Another game in 1962 stands out. John Charles had just been transferred back to Leeds United and his first game would be against the Swans at the Vetch. Making their debuts for Leeds that day were Bremner, Hunter, Sprake, Reaney and Lorimer all of whom were destined to become Leeds legends. The Vetch was packed to the rafters to witness the return of the Gentle Giant to English football. Just before the kick-off the public address system announced team changes to the programme. Yep, you’ve got it; John Charles would not be playing and his replacement is………………

My father took me to my first game at the Vetch in 1961. Ivor had long gone to Newcastle United, and my dad and Uncle Alec had not set foot in the Vetch since Ivor was transferred in 1958. I don’t think my dad enjoyed taking me to matches. I appeared to cramp his style a little. He wasn’t a demonstrative man, but when he was standing on the North Bank he could be heard shouting and cajoling with the best of them. That was the time I was introduced to my first sporting hero: Brayley Reynolds was a bustling, aggressive, no holds barred center forward who still retains the record for most goals scored in the South Wales derbies (8 between 1959-1965.)

There may be other rivalries in football that raise the shackles of fans. Liverpool v Man Utd, Spurs v Arsenal, City v United, Everton v Liverpool and Barcelona v Real Madrid spring to mind. But none compare to the intensity and passion of a Swansea v Cardiff derby which splits a nation. It is indeed the mother of all derbies.

A Bloody Marvelous Day

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

I may be accused of being myopic, but the realization that we annihilated England by 30-3 is unfathomable to those who are not Welsh. Well I guess the Scots and the Irish completely understand our emotions but then Celts are of a singular mind.

It was not just the result; it was the occasion. England were undefeated in the Six Nations. entering the final game, and according to BBC pundits they merely had to show up at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and claim their first Grand Slam in 10 years, the mythical Triple Crown and the Championship.

After all who were they playing? They were playing a nation living in the past; a past when they reigned supreme in the seventies with Gareth, Barry, Phil, Gerald, JPR, and Merve the Swerve. We mustn’t forget Dai Morris, Basil Brush or Ripper Wheel.

I must admit that the modern game bears little resemblance to the panache of the seventies. The only similarities appear to be the shape of the ball and the dimensions of the pitch. Nevertheless the rugby on display particularly the second half was breathtaking.

What made it more compelling was the prospect of selection for the Lions tour to Australia in the summer. Prior to the game the media, had penciled in more than 10 Englishmen to make the Lions team, and based on their performances this season they had made England as one of the favorites for the World Cup in 2015.

From the kick-off the tackling and hits were ferocious from both sides, but Wales had a distinctive edge in the scrums where Adam Jones was a colossus at tight head closely followed by Captain Gethin Jenkins and the marauding blond Viking Richard Hibberd at hooker.

Even so Wales only led 9-3 at half-time despite having most of the possession, and quite rightly the English pundits (the three stooges) on the BBC panel predicted that we would see a different England in the second half and they would finish the stronger.

We did witness a “different” England in the second half. Wales began turning possession and pressure into points and on the hour mark England replaced their front row which sent a message to the Welsh crowd and the team that England were beaten and bowed into submission.

Alex Cuthbert scored two tries created by the awesome Welsh back row. Wales gambled by selecting two open side flankers who many thought could not play together. Warburton and man of the match Jason Tuperic were the difference makers. Tuperic played like an” All Black “and there couldn’t be higher praise. Wearing his distinctive blue skull cap he ran and distributed like a three quarter and tackled like a man possessed.

When handing out the laurels we must not forget the contribution made by Leigh Halfpenny at fullback. His courage and tenacity under the high ball reminded me of the legendary JPR while his goal kicking was supreme.

At the end of the day (I’m running out of clichés) this was a magnificent team performance and Wales did not have a weakness. The Lions selectors could not be criticized if they penciled in the names of the fifteen Welsh players for the first test against Australia in the summer.


One Hundred Not Out

Friday, August 10th, 2012

There were several reasons for wanting to write a blog, none of which included making money. Just as well because I haven’t made one cent from ninety nine posts.

I was rather naive when I began this adventure into blogging. I assumed if I attracted any comments they would formulate some entertaining and constructive discussion. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Most of the comments are spam related with one important exception. Consequently I am grateful to my brother for taking the time to read the posts and responding from time to time with entertaining and critical comments.

He has a far better command of the English language than I, and has an open invitation to be a guest blogger on my site. Come on Bro, step up to the plate. Ironically one of the most popular posts was written by a friend who is a keen motor cycle enthusiast and his post “Motor Cycle Diaries Too” (June 2010) received hundreds of comments.

I was contemplating something special for my 100th post when my son suggested I should do a review of my favorite posts. So here goes:

Most of my posts are stimulated by something topical at the time of writing and St Patrick’s Day prompted me to post “If it weren’t for the Sheep and Welsh there wouldn’t be any Irish.” (March 2010) St. Patrick’s Day is a big party day in America which I totally support, but St David’s Day (March 1st) is totally ignored.

Some of the few genuine comments have asked where do I find the topics to write about. Usually it is from personal experiences and a case in point is “The Wailing Banshee and Peanut Lady.” (May 2010) Air travel and” people watching” at airports are wonderful sources for blogs.

“New Beginnings” (May 2010) chronicled two major events which occurred almost simultaneously, but one much important than the other. The first was the birth of my granddaughter over in England, and the lesser event was the first coalition government elected in Britain for over 80 years.

“Antique or Classic” (July 2010) was one of my favorites. It recalls the day when I inherited a 1983 Buick Park Avenue from my mother-in-law, and I drove it to an interview on a hot steamy day in Atlanta traffic with no air conditioning. The car is an antique while the story is a classic!

My son usually visits for a week in the fall, and in 2010 we embarked on a road trip to Nashville and Memphis which is documented in “Road Trip: In search of Freddy Fender.” (December 2010) We were lucky to catch Vince Gill jamming with The Time Jumpers in a moth eaten watering hole in Nashville, and even luckier to survive a shooting at our motel in Memphis. No, it wasn’t the same motel in which Martin Luther King was assassinated back in 1968.

“Surviving Wrestlemania” (April 2011) has a special place in my list of favorites as it was instrumental in bringing all our family together for the first time since 1993 with the welcome addition of a son-in-law, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Many of my posts were devoted to politics and I enjoyed writing “The World is riddled with Wieners.” (June 2011)America on the Brink” (March 2012) also offered an opportunity for an entertaining exchange of views between my brother and me.

In the summer of 2011 I was caught up in the trial of Caylee Anthony who was accused of murdering her little daughter. My interest covered two posts entitled “American Justice” (July 2011) because I felt personally involved having two little granddaughters of a similar age to the victim.

On a lighter note many of my posts extended to sports. In insight I overdid my coverage of the FIFA World Cup, Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons, but it is difficult to write without passion and I have a deep passion for sports. “Jimmy, Samantha and Me” (April 2012) was an account of our experience on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama. I would recommend it to fellow golfers and I can’t wait to return.

“Elvis is Alive and Kicking at The Liberty” (May 2012) chronicles Swansea City’s final match of their first season in the Premiership. Read the post if you want to know the link between Elvis and the Swans.

My two favorite posts are very personal to me. I discovered some information about my dad which I was unaware of via “RAF Bomber Command and my Dad.” (June 2012) I knew he served in the Air Force during the war but thanks to my brother learned that he was attached to the 2nd Tactical Air force.

Finally “1972: A Season to Remember” (February 2011) is my son’s favorite post and probably mine too. I only have to close my eyes and I have an image of trotting onto a bumpy,  grassless, (well almost) muddy pitch under an overcast gray sky in a claret and blue strip at Underhill Park in Mumbles, Swansea. Great memories!


What’s with the title Dude?

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

It may seem bizarre to foreigners but there is something oddly endearing, even quirky, about the British honors system. Twice a year (the Queen’s birthday and New Year) peerages, knighthoods, dames and a variety of gongs and medals are meted out to recipients from the worlds of entertainment, business, military and sporting fraternities. Even Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow sometimes receive an award for services rendered to Wheels on Meals or providing floral displays at the Women’s Institute.  Politicians are not forgotten either and many receive peerages (which seems quite appropriate) on retirement and subsequently put out to grass in the most exclusive men’s club in the world, The House of Lords.

In America, they pride themselves on living in a classless society and boast that one can achieves ones dreams and goals in the US of A without the need for a silver spoon in ones mouth. A little money helps of course, but Americans summarily dismiss the British aristocracy and landed gentry; particularly the range of titles on offer: duke, earl, count, marquis, viscount, baron, knight, dame and so forth.

Consequently, it is curious to me that American politicians retain their titles regardless of whether they retired, resigned or were defeated in an election. Messrs George Bush, George W. Bush, Clinton, and Carter are reverentially addressed as Mr. President. Carter was badly beaten in his re-election campaign and Gerald Ford was not even elected but retained the title.

Even Richard Nixon was addressed as Mr. President even though he was forced to resign office instead of facing impeachment. Sarah Palin resigned as Governor of Alaska half way through her term but is addressed as Governor Palin on political talk shows. The former speaker of the House of Representative, Newt Gingrich, is interviewed as Mr. Speaker. Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice who both served as Secretary of State for a number of years are called Madam Secretary.

The only explanation I can discern from this weird process is that America is secretly envious of the British nobility system and decided to invent its own posturing. Tony Blair is no longer addressed as Prime Minister, but can look forward to receiving a peerage in his dotage. He could be re-invented as Baron Blair of Sedgefield which he served as Member of Parliament for 24 years

However, he may have to wait longer than most former prime ministers for his peerage as he was responsible for banning fox hunting long regarded as a popular activity practiced by the Nobility. Ironically he also abolished one of the oldest titles in the realm; Lord Chancellor who is summarily head of the judicial system in the UK. The post is now called Minister of Justice which wreaks of George Orwell’s futuristic masterpiece ‘1984.’

Winston Churchill refused a title which was offered him following his sterling efforts in World War 2. George 6th finally persuaded him to accept the “Order of the Knight’s Garter” which is a personal honor only a reigning monarch can bestow. Conversely one or two members of the aristocracy have renounced their titles. Most memorably, King Edward 8th abdicated in 1936 to be free to marry an American divorcee Wallis Simpson. He was downgraded to a Duke minus the prefix HRH: His Royal Highness. In the sixties, Tony Benn renounced his hereditary title, Viscount Stansgate, which allowed him to stand for Member of Parliament. knighthoods apart, parliamentarians are not allowed titles.

Over the years, American music icons have paid homage to the title process if one recalls Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Prince, and who can forget Lady Gaga. American sports have their own idiosyncrasy in the shape of anyone who has coached an NFL, NBA, NHL or College team and hereinafter addressed as “Coach.” Baseball managers are endearingly referred to as “Skipper”, but fortunately we are not subjected to the term too often.

Sarah Palin is being touted as possible presidential candidate, and if God forbid she was elected, she would probably assume the mantra of “Madam President, the great white hunter formerly known as Governor.” Speaker Newt Gingrich is testing the water and so is ex-Governor Romney each with his own former handle. The main protagonist of this absurd ritual of addressing guests by their former titles is a political talk show host, Sean Hannity, whose politics are slightly right of Attila the Hun. The irritating toe rag used to refer to every caller on his radio show as “you’re a great American and so are you Sean.”

For the sake of my fingernails being dragged across a black board, can we drop all the handles and just address political candidates or guests wheeled in to cure us of insomnia as either Mr. Mrs., or if you insist on being politically correct, Ms? I was a town planner by profession and I would be surely (don’t call me Shirley) be addressed by Mr. Hannity as Mr. Planner if he invited me onto his show. Quite frankly, it has a certain ring to it.

What Charm School did you graduate from?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

 Call it what you will but I have little patience for people who are rude, ill-mannered, lacking social graces or etiquette. I went to vote at the crack of dawn on polling day, bright eyed and bushy-tailed, only to be confronted by a wrinkly old sour puss of a polling clerk. He beckoned me forward with a shake of his clawed hand and could not be bothered to say good morning or even make a sound to indicate that he was still alive. I wish I had brought a mirror with me and stuck it under his nose. I could excuse the old geezer being exhausted at the end of a longing polling day but this was five minutes after the station opened.

I’m sure you have all encountered the arrogant waiter in restaurants who believes he is doing you a favor by serving you and then wonders why you chose to leave him a derisory 5% tip. We usually celebrate our wedding anniversary over a candlelit dinner at one of the many restaurants in the city, and on this occasion I chose the restaurant which was a big mistake!

 I decided to take my wife to a highly rated steak restaurant, but unfortunately the testosterone was dripping down the walls the moment we arrived. The restaurant featured an al a carte menu and I naturally ordered their signature steak with French fries and grilled mushrooms as my over priced side dishes. The steak duly turned up but with a plate of onion rings in place of the fries.

  • “Excuse me waiter, but I ordered fries not onion rings.”
  • He replied: “You ordered onion rings Sir, but I will reluctantly change them for fries if you so wish.”
  • “I don’t like onion rings so why would I order them?”
  • The mealy mouthed waiter was determined to have the last word: “Whatever!”

 We once visited a restaurant in South Carolina and the “maitre de” was armed with a warped sense of humor. He greeted us at the entrance with a disarming $2 smile and asked: “Smoking or non smoking?” Having never succumbed to the evil weed I naturally chose non smoking and he promptly directed us to a table which was immediately adjacent to a table of chimney stacks.

  • “Herr, hmm, perhaps you didn’t hear me properly but we want a table in the non-smoking section.”
  • “You are in non-smoking Sir which just happens to be juxtaposed to the smoking section.
  • “You can’t be serious:” I protested with as much conviction as Charlie Sheen on the sanctity of marriage.
  •  “I have to draw a line somewhere and I can’t afford to have a void between sections, so you just happen to be sitting on the Mendoza.”
  • Not to be considered churlish, we followed the theme and ordered the smoked salmon and suggested that the “maitre de” put it in his pipe and smoke it and left the establishment in a proverbial cloud!

 I work with a bunch of guys who at various times of the day are determined to test my resolve while trapped together in the restricted confines of a SUV. While one hapless avenger is slapping his lips eating a fast food item of dubious quality, his cohort is feverishly slurping his beverage, and they invariably complete my nightmare by sucking their teeth in unison to relieve their cavities of food particles and other unmentionables. I suppose I could be considered impatient and a little intolerant, but I can’t abide poor table manners.

My contempt for flight attendants is well documented in previous posts, but now I have to add another group of malcontents to the wall of shame: car dealership employees with one or two redeemable exceptions.  The number of times I have to pick up a vehicle from a dealership for a customer only to be told that it is in clean up and will be ready in 20 minutes. These people are trapped in a time warp because more often than not twenty minutes translates to 2 hours.

 It was 11.30am one sunny morning when I arrived at a car dealership with a contact name to acquire a vehicle only to be informed by the receptionist that the gentleman was at lunch.

  • I enquired: “What time will he back from lunch?”
  •  The receptionist replied: “3.30pm give or take a cocktail or two.”
  • Unable to control my frustration I replied: “four hours for lunch?”
  • “It’s a working lunch” explained the tiresome, mascara laden receptionist.
  • “It doesn’t work for me:” I exclaimed desperately trying to control my emotions.
  • She asked contemptuously: “Did you have an appointment?”
  • “Not at a precise time but he was expecting me to pick up the vehicle around noon.”
  • “There’s nobody else who can help you, so come back late this afternoon. But call in advance just in case he’s with another customer.”

 The irony of this unfortunate episode was not lost on me. While clicking my heels for twenty minutes at reception I glanced around the dealership and observed a distinct lack of fellow customers, but I counted approximately 20-25 employees idly positioned, picking their noses, filing their nails or chewing the fat with a fellow co-worker oblivious to my plight.

I maybe old school, but I appreciate service with a smile. I like people to say thank you when I hold a door open for them. I appreciate an acknowledgement from another driver when I allow him into the line of traffic. In this depressed economy, one would assume airlines and car dealerships to make a greater effort to treat their customers with courtesy and respect, but it was obviously not included on the course curriculum of whatever “charm school” they attended.