Archive for the ‘Humour’ Category

Your indefatigable correspondent doing what he does best, Dear Reader

Your indefatigable correspondent doing what he does best.

You find us on our occasional travels this bright autumn day, Dear Reader, this time to Italy again, to see the immortal Southampton Football Club scale the tobacco-smoke-filled heights of Inter Milan at the San Siro Stadium. Which lofty ambition was thwarted by our customary inability to score from a hatful of golden chances, while Inter Milan scored from their only shot on goal of the game, much of which they spent with eleven men behind the ball and employing every niggly, nasty, time-wasting tactic imaginable, which makes their baby-snatching victory all the more galling, but heigh ho, that’s football. And anyway, what can you expect from a game administered by an obviously blind namby-pamby incompetent fool of a referee, played against a bunch of [insert nakedly inappropriate insults here], who have made a virtue of winning by playing so badly the other team subsides in a heap of confusion and frustration. Bah, humbug and curses to youse all.

We would not use our precious leave to re-visit a country we have explored before, in reality, were it not for the precious nexus of European football and a bunch of good mates traveling to see the game, but Italy is one of those wonderful, shambolic, loveable, infuriating experiences that makes a return trip enjoyable under any circumstances.

If one can ever get there, that is.

Having left home 36 hours before one finally schlepped up to our Milan hotel bedroom, one could be forgiven for thinking the Arab states have got it right and it is, per se, perfectly appropriate to cut the hands off whichever idiot air bridge operator crashed their charge into the side of our plane, thus occasioning all of us to get off again and spent an uncomfortable few hours inside Dubai terminal C waiting for a new one to complete the hop to Milano. Or whatever it is they do to ground crew who mistake their handling of what must be the slowest vehicular transport known to man for racing their new Mercedes and proceed to crash it into a $250 million Airbus, leaving an unsafe dent in the fuselage. “So sorry, Effendi, I just didn’t see it there.” Yes, medieval torture has its place in modern jurisprudence, especially when its 40+ degrees outside and your credit card isn’t working any more than the airport air-conditioning so you can’t even indulge in an iced Starbucks as you disappear into a puddle on the immaculately scrubbed floor. Even the mid-day call to prayer over the loudspeakers fails to lift our spirits. If Allah existed surely he wouldn’t let bad things happen to good people, right?

Milan is, of course, the jewel in the crown of northern Italy, home to fashion and fashonistas, and wandering its streets waiting for the game to start it is hard not to be struck by the fact that everyone is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, beautiful. The women are beautiful – effortlessly, so, with their immaculate coiffure and laughing eyes, high on life. The men are beautiful – boldly so, with their perfectly cut clothes in impossible, improbable colours. There is an air of stylish self-confidence evident everywhere. The short fat people are beautiful. The tall skinny ones are beautiful. Beauty is ageless – the retired indulge the autumn of their lives by dressing in designer fashions that actively defy death and wrinkles. Even the homeless guy pushing a trolley does it with a certain panache as he greets the street vendors who know him. The African migrants trying to sell useless tatt table-to-table in the piazza have adopted their hosts’ insouciant air of belonging, and the street-mime working the restaurants for tips is genuinely funny in a knowing, mocking manner. This is a city high on art culture, so that performance permeates its very fabric. Performance is the core standard. Everyone has an eye on everyone, and knows for sure that everyone’s eyes are on them. It is, frankly, as invigorating as it is scary. So one pulls in one’s belly fat and smiles at the impossibly gorgeous girl at the next table with what you hope is an appropriate devil-may-care atteggiamento. To your astonishment, she flashes you a warming smile back that would melt a Milanese gelato at a dozen paces. This stuff really works. It’s a psychological conspiracy, adhered to by all. We are all beautiful. Keep the faith. Pass it on.

churchSomewhere, a bell tower tolls the hour. Very loud. And very near. And all around, other bell towers take up the tune. The saints clustered around their tops stand impassively calm as the wild clarions ring out, as they have for centuries. They ignore the bells, as the walkers in the street ignore them, as we ignore them. Only the pigeons are startled, but not for long, and return to walking over our feet looking for crumbs.

Our hotel does not disappoint.

It is purple, for a start. Purple from top to bottom.

The grout in the bathrooms is purple.

The walls are purple.

The artworks are purple.

The helpful advice folder in the room is black type on purple paper, so that it can only be read when held under the bedside light at about two inches distance, at which point, like an ancient Illuminati text in the floor of a cathedral, it reluctantly gives up its arcane knowledge of the impossibly complex local train system.

table-and-chairsModern art furniture assails the eyes. Somewhere a table and chairs in the shape of a glass and two steins beckon the unwary. Stay .. drink … relaaaaaax. Tom Hanks rushes into the lobby, crying out to anyone who will listen that it’s not the Metro we allhotel need, but rather the slow suburban S2 line, except they’re on strike. He rushes out again, pursued by a bald monk with evil intent. Or it may have been a postman.

The carpet in the lobby is purple. Your head spins, and not just because ten minutes before you’ve gone arse-over-tit on the laminate floor in your room and you’re no longer quite sure what day it is. Ah yes, it’s match day.

Two Limoncello, please, and two beers.

The ubiquitous lemon liqueur turns up in frozen glasses that are surprisingly beautiful. That’s the aching knee fixed. Onward. Forza!

The game happens.

Having paid a king’s ransom to sit in the posh seats, we exit the ground quickly and safely, with all the fearsome Inter fans (their collective reputation marginally worse than Attilla the Hun’s) shaking our hands with courtesy and smiles and something that looked like pity, as they are enduring a season of shocking failure and they seem to say, “we know what you’re going through, we love you, we share your pain”. Halfway down the stairs, young men and women share the single toilet to serve hundreds, as the male lavatory is inexplicably padlocked, and as they wait in comfortable unisex discomfort they smile, and chatter, and look nothing more nor less than a slightly disreputable renaissance painting come to life. Caravaggio, perhaps.

We are not in Verona, but we might be. There Romeo. There Juliet. There, Tybalt, drunk of course, intent on lechery and perhaps a brawl. All beautiful.

To prevent a brawl, our friends are locked into the stadium for 45 minutes after the game, and then eight thousand Southampton fans are grudgingly permitted to exit down a single narrow staircase. As we stand outside shivering in the suddenly bitter late-evening breeze, they are greeted by a hundred or so police in full riot gear, as clearly the fact that every single one of them is cheerful and good-natured and very obviously they wouldn’t riot if you stuffed a cracker up their collective arse means nothing to Il Commandante Whoever, and having pumped millions into the Milanese economy and behaved impeccably they are now treated like morally dissolute cattle, and dangerously so, too. One stumble, and hundreds could have perished. Criminal stupidity from the authorities, who are obviously only interested in lining the pockets of their carabiniere with unnecessary overtime, as groups of young men in ridiculous gold braid with sub machine guns strut first one way, then another, then back again, noses in the air, sniffing for trouble. They glower. Only word for it. And it isn’t beautiful. It isn’t beautiful one little bit.

But after that distasteful experience, essential Milan reasserts itself, and we walk, semi-frozen and tired to a nearby restaurant owned by a friend and head of the Italian Saints supporters group, and the restaurant is tiny and warm and welcoming, and as feeling returns to our fingers and toes we are treated to a sensational repast of local salami and proscuitto, followed by the most ineffably delicious and unlikely Osso Bucco-topped risotto with creamy rice so imbued with butter and white wine and saffron that the plate almost glows as it comes to the table, and the Osso Bucco topping is gelatinous and rich and the bone marrow in the veal is luscious and braised for hours so that it melts in your mouth. And at the next table are members of the local Parliament representing the curious Legia Nord, the byzantine regional and federalist party which is anti-EU and anti-Rome, fiercely proud of local traditions, socially-conservative, and essentially a party of the right (especially in its anti-immigration activism) yet containing many socialists, liberals and centrists too, who care more for their local area than they do about mere matters such as political philosophy. We remind the leader that we had met previously, at Wembley Stadium, no less, and exchanged happy banter, even though he is Legia Nord and we are socialists. “Of course I forget you if you are socialist!” he laughs amiably, and then says, perfectly seriously, “We need more socialists in Italy. All our socialists are not really socialists, they all agree with the right. This is not good for democracy. How do you like the risotto? It is a local speciality. Best risotto in Italy! More wine?”

panatonneAnd his colleague at the next table waves his serviette in the air as he makes an important debating point about bureaucrats in Brussels and sets it alight on the candle, which seems as good a reason as any for everyone to adjourn to the doorway for a cigarette. And the wind has dropped so the sky is clear and cold, and in the distance a police siren cuts through the still and smoky air and the patron announces “We have Panettone!” which is served with sweet mascarpone cream and it is explained that this doughy, fruit-filled dish is really only served on Christmas Day, but in honour of our visit they have made it specially tonight. And our hosts make it clear that they, not us, are paying for dinner, and we must come again soon. And they really mean it. And everywhere is smiles and gentility and the Gods of football work their magic.

And tomorrow, naturally, the trains are all on strike, so we will not be visiting the Cathedral to see the Last Supper, so we will have time to write this.

And it is beautiful. They are beautiful. Life is beautiful. Italy is beautiful.

And mad. But mainly beautiful.


Yes, we are aware of the fact that we have recently argued for greater civility in politics.

But frankly, with the best will in the world, politicians are sometimes just total dickheads.

Then again, their electorate can hardly complain too much.


Honestly, we despair, Dear Reader.



Now I get anxious when I look at pictures of babies on Facebook.

I do not understand. I think we should be told.

One minute they’re on the breast. Or gurgling cutely. Rolling on blankies,

eyes bigger than berries.

Next they’re pulling the wings off flies, beating up the kid down the street, and one in umpteen thousand turn into serial killers.

How do you tell? Why one and not the other?

You can’t really “Dislike”. A baby.

Can’t say, “Honest injun’

I reckon you’ve got a little nutter there.”

Don’t like the way he’s staring.

People will be upset. Understandably.

But not in Hawaii. Not so much.

Hardly any at all, in fact.

Must be all the Pina Coladas.

Hard to be all screwed up when a Pina Colada is just a

swim-up bar away.

You’re pretty safe in Hawaii.

Bad in Washington. Way bad.

Everyone has a 0.025% chance of being strangled – strangled, or shot
– most likely.

By a nutter. In Washington.

Maybe it’s the politics. CSPAN is driving all the babies mad
left watching TV, while Mum fixes breakfast.

But you probs won’t be dead by poison. That’s exaggerated.

Agatha Christie is responsible for a lot of misconceptions.

So if you’re sick after the lox and cream cheese bagel

it’s probably just the fish.

The fish has gone bad. Not the baby.

So now you know.

And so, Dear Reader, in this “nothing is secret” era of social media, we have Instagram to thank for revealing how at least some Aussies voted yesterday. Somehow, whilst we can’t in all conscience condone it, it does reassert ones faith in our fellow electors.

People “spoil” their ballot papers all over the world. Only in Australia is it this funny, and this bang on the money!

Meanwhile, the real election is just too fucking disastrous to comment on today. We are working up to tomorrow.

It’s time we had another F*** Up. This one’s a doozey. I suppose we could call it a Suck Up.

Dear Marketing Manager – please remember that watching EVERYTHING about your brand is important, even where you stick the sign on the new delivery vehicle.

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For more advertising and marketing F*** Ups, just put F*** Up in the search box top left: there are LOADS of them to enjoy.

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Oh, while you’re at it, make sure you tell your media buying company to think about WHICH ad (or news story) your ad runs next to.





Spike Milligan famously inscribed “I told you I was sick” on his tombstone.

Well, Dear Reader, we apologise, but we have not posted for a while because we have been laid up in bed with flu since the middle of last week.

And trust me. We’ve been whingeing about it. To anyone who will listen. Which is, predictably, no-one.

We can’t get anyone to understand how crook we feel. “Pah! Man flu!” has been the response. Well now scientists have revealed that there is such a thing as Man Flu. It really does exist, according to research.

Men suffer more with coughs and colds because they have extra temperature receptors in the brain and so experience worse symptoms.

Children deal with colds the same way because the relevant area of the brain is the same size in boys and girls, said Durham University neuroscientist Dr Amanda Ellison.

But when boys hit puberty testosterone starts to act on the area, called the preoptic nucleus, making it larger.

Dr Ellison said: ‘When you have a cold one of the things that happens is you get an increase in temperature to fight off the bugs.

‘The bugs can’t survive at higher temperatures.

‘When your immune system is under attack the preoptic nucleus increases temperature to kill off the bugs. But men have more temperature receptors because that area of the brain is bigger in men than women.

“So men run a higher temperature and feel rougher – and if they complain they feel rough then maybe they’re right.”

Research published in 2009 which also supported the existence of man flu was criticised as inconclusive as it related to genetically engineered mice rather than humans. But Dr Ellison’s study was based on research carried out on human brains.

“It is part of the whole argument about the differences between men and women and how their behaviour can be influenced by differences in their brains,” she added.

Commenting on the fact that her findings could be seen as controversial, Dr Ellison said: “I’m just throwing it out there. The debate will rage on and quite rightly so. The trouble with man flu has always been that there is not much hard evidence that the feelings are worse in males than in females. This is just a possible cause.”

We need no more evidence, Dear Reader. Pass the Lemsip. And we can’t quite reach the remote control …

Our dear friend and regular contributor Richard Ember from Texas is very fond of ranting and raving to us that CNN is a hopelessly biased bunch of left wingers who make no more attempt to be even handed in their media coverage than, say, Faux News.

He may or may not be right. Opinions are divided.

On one thing, though, surely, we can all agree.

Their copywriting is a miracle of clarity and precision.


Tay Tay's girl gang at the MTV Awards in 2015

Tay Tay’s ‘girl gang’ at the MTV Awards in 2015


If you’ve got more than a handful of friends, it seems you may need to kick some to the kerb as science reckons our brains can’t handle more than five besties at a time.

A study by the MIT Technology Review looked at a theory by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who noticed that there was a direct correlation between people’s brains and how many friends they have – basically the bigger your brain the bigger your friendship group and the smaller your brain, the less friends you’re bound to have.

According to Dunbar, humans are only able to have FIVE best friends, with maybe another 10 close friends, 35 acquaintances, and 100 additional contacts, due to the size of our neocortex.

And if you were having doubts about his theory, Dunbar actually tested out it out recently by examining 6 billion phone calls made by 35 million people in an anonymous European country.

“The team assumes that the frequency of calls between two individuals is a measure of the strength of their relationship,” the MIT Technology Review states. The study found that Dunbar’s estimate wasn’t too far fletched: “The average cumulative layer turns out to hold 4.1, 11.0, 29.8, and 128.9 users,” researchers found — again, that’s besties, close friends, acquaintances and “contacts” respectively.

So maybe Katy Perry and Rihanna had the right idea when they chose a girl squad of two as opposed to Tay Tay’s massive army? And who are Taylor’s best besties from among the girl gang? We think the people should be told.
We reckon we’ve got at least six friends, Dear Reader. Coz we’re really, er, you know, brainy. You know who you are.

Queen Elizabeth IILike most other Brits (originally, at least). and much of the rest of the world, we are full of admiration for Queen Elizabeth II as she approaches her 90th birthday, having recently become the longest-serving monarch in the country’s history.

We are not, in truth, overly in favour of the monarchy, as we are highly sceptical as to whether it really offers the economic boon that is always quoted whenever anyone questions its existence.

And though it is supposed to be non-political, it undoubtedly wields behind the scenes influence, and whether that influence is for good or ill it really should play no role in a truly democratic society.

One cannot help, by way of example, to wonder what might have occurred had avowed Nazi sympathiser Edward VIII remained on the throne to apply his influence in support of Halifax and the appeaser faction in the Conservative Party in 1939. No ascent of Churchill and an ignominious accommodation with the Nazis would have been much more likely than the stout defence of country and Empire – and subsequent defeat of fascism – that actually occurred. For a fuller discussion of the fight between Halifax and Churchill on the conduct of the war, one of the most seminal events in the whole of human history as it turned out, we recommend this Wikipedia article, which is fascinating.

And non-Brits sometimes forget we have chopped the head off a king on our way to a participatory democracy. We are by no means mindlessly adulatory to our monarchs. The approbrium heaped on future King Charles III’s head over the breakdown of his marriage with the adored Princess Diana shows how shallow the British public’s acquiescence really can be. Our monarchs really do rule at the public’s favour.

Nevertheless, one would be hard pushed to find anyone with a word of criticism of the Queen. Despite her advanced years, she maintains a punishing schedule of public engagements, (the equivalent of almost one a day), and despite having, by all accounts, something of a temper (an attribute she shares with most of her ancestors), she manages to seem to deal with almost everyone with impeccable courtesy and good humour.

She has never had a whiff of scandal anywhere in her personal life, and unquestionably is held in great affection by the vast majority of her own people, by people throughout the British Commonwealth (a push for a Republic in Australia, for example, is widely believed to be on hold while she still lives, out of respect for her personally), and ordinary folk in the world in general. He continued occupation of her throne (well, a total of eight thrones, actually) is undoubtedly the democratic will of her subjects, and that should be respected.

Which leaves us with one burning question.

If she is still on the throne ten years from now, as might well be the case, who will send her the official telegram that always goes from her to a centenarian subject on their birthday? After all, such an outcome is by no means unlikely. Her mother, it should be remembered, was mostly hale and hearty until her 102nd year.

She can hardly send one to herself, now can she?

We think the people should be told.

"And we should put all the long haired ruffians in the army, too, that'd wake em up ..."

“And we should put all the long haired ruffians in the army, too, that’d wake em up …”

One of the things that drives us into a blue billy-oh state of mouth-foaming rage is that oft-repeated moment where people cheerfully announce “I’m not a racist, but …” and then proceed to say something effortlessly racist and dumb, because you just know they’re going to say something to emphasise someone else’s perceived otherness.

So today, this made us laugh.

Actually laugh out loud, not just typing lol, but really, you know – lol.

We hope it does you, too.


I'm not a racist


PS Dear Reader – and you know who you are – the next time you feel moved to pronounce “I am not a racist, but …” you are almost certainly about to say something racist. So don’t.

“Awa’ an bile yer heid”

coffee (1)

In another confirmation of what we have always fervently believed, you can chalk up another benefit to downing your favourite morning brew: drinking coffee may protect your liver, research from the our old alma mater the University of Southampton in the U.K. has found.

After analyzing data on 432,000 people from 5 separate studies, the researchers concluded that people who drank one cup of coffee a day were 22 percent less likely to develop cirrhosis—scarring of the liver that eventually causes it to fail—than those who didn’t drink any.

But it gets better. The more coffee they consumed, the better their livers fared: People who drank two cups a day were 43 percent less likely to get the disease, while those who drank four cups a day had a 65 percent lower risk of it.

The study didn’t separate between decaf and regular coffee. But it’s likely that the caffeine does play a protective role, says study author Oliver Kennedy, M.D.

Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in your body, which are responsible for activating certain liver cells that lay down scar tissue. If this process is hindered, scar tissue—and eventually cirrhosis—may be less likely to occur, he says.

Still, it’s possible that there’s something in coffee itself that may be responsible for the beneficial effects, too.

For instance, one component called diterpenes — found in both regular and decaf coffee — may tamp down inflammation in the liver, reducing the risk of cirrhosis, Dr. Kennedy says.

So if you want to keep your liver safe, consider adding a cup or two of coffee to your day, as well as maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption, says Dr. Kennedy. And stick to no more than two alcoholic drinks a day.

We’re not sure about that last one, frankly, and we’d love to stay and talk, but right now we’re off to make another coffee.

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We do love a good F*** Up, as you know, Dear Reader. Mostly (as it’s the business we are in) we have concerned ourselves with glaring errors in commercial advertising, packaging, signs and so on. But with #election2016 in full swing, it’s the pollies in America that are now making some classic mistakes. Such fun.

Case History #1




It’s really very important, peeps, that you keep your website URL registrations up to date. Not like dear old Jeb Bush, who in keeping with his bumbling campaign for President forgot to keep the registration current of So Donald Trump grabbed the registration and simply re-directed it his website. D’oh!

Smart move by Trump, as there is an increasing trend for people not to link to websites from online advertising, or even to Google the correct link, but simply to type in what they assume to be the right URL. In America people normally assume that’s the name plus “dot com”, in Australia name plus “dot com dot au”, in the UK name plus “Dot co dot uk” and so on.

People in each domain “learn” their local suffix and assume that’s what the URL will be. Well done Trump and his staff (the only time we expect you’ll ever hear us say that) and big black mark for Bush. Not the last time we’ll say that. (Telling his audience to “clap now” the other day wasn’t all that smart, either.)

Case History #2




Hilarious mistake by Marco Rubio’s campaign.

“It’s unmistakably Vancouver,” the Sun wrote.

The tugboat also features a Canadian flag, according to BuzzFeed News, who first flagged the footage on Monday.

The size and length of the ad buy was not immediately clear. But Vancouver-based videographer Guy Chavasse told CBC News on Monday that he shot the scene last August.

“It’s pretty funny, isn’t it?” he told the CBC. “It’s a good-looking video, no doubt, but it’s pretty recognisable as Vancouver.”

Chavasse estimated the campaign paid $80 for his footage. He also said he’s not a “Republican fan” or Rubio supporter.

Well, if it isn’t morning again in America, at least it’s morning again in Canada, eh?

So dumb it fair takes yer breath away.

For more F*** Ups, from all spheres of public communication, just go to the search box top left of this page and type in F*** Up. Then sit back and enjoy. Innocent fun for all the family. Well, not so innocent really.

PS We have promised various correspondents that we will faithfully report any F*** Ups from the Democratic side of politics, fearlessly reporting Hillary or Bernie burying their heads in a passing bucket of ordureful incompetence. But of course we know that won’t happen, because Democrats are incredibly clever and skillful and unicorns are real and so is magic fairy dust.


Who you calling a goat?

Who you calling a goat?

About time we had another advertising and marketing F*** Up to report to you.

To celebrate Chinese New Year, and it’s the Year of the Monkey this year of course, Woolworths in Australia are thoughtfully selling Chinese lucky bamboo with a cute Monkey picture. Seems a great idea. But as our good friend She Cao asks on Facebook, why have they written the Chinese character for “Goat” under the cute picture of a cheeky Monkey?

We think the people should be told. Woolworths? Care to comment?

Update: latest reports tell us the mistake is in Coles, too. Crikey!

For more F*** Ups, just pop F*** Up in the search box on the top left of this page, and go for your life. There are dozens on the blog. Enjoy.

18 January is Pooh Day, celebrating the birthday of A.A. Milne in 1882.


There is no doubt in my mind that Milne tapped into a deep understanding of the human condition with his Pooh stories.

Milne was a noted writer, primarily as a playwright, before the huge success of Pooh overshadowed all his previous work. He served in both World Wars, joining the British Army in World War I, where he was injured on the battle of the Somme, and was a captain of the British Home Guard in World War II. Milne did not speak out much on the subject of religion, although he used religious terms to explain his decision, while remaining a pacifist, to join the Home Guard: “In fighting Hitler”, he wrote, “we are truly fighting the Devil, the Anti-Christ … Hitler was a crusader against God.”

When he was growing up, one of his teachers was H. G. Wells, who in 1889-90 taught at the school owned by Milne’s father, where Milne was educated. What effect that great genius had on the young Milne is not known, but one can speculate that he played his role in fuelling both his imagination and his affection for writing.

After the first war, he wrote a denunciation of war titled Peace with Honour (1934), which he retracted somewhat with 1940’s War with Honour. During World War II, Milne was one of the most prominent critics of fellow English writer P. G. Wodehouse, who was captured at his country home in France by the Nazis and imprisoned for a year. Wodehouse made radio broadcasts about his internment, which were broadcast from Berlin. Although the light-hearted broadcasts made fun of the Germans, Milne accused Wodehouse of committing an act of near treason by cooperating with his country’s enemy. After the war Wodehouse was investigated and some believe he was lucky not to be hanged. Wodehouse got some revenge on his former friend (e.g., in The Mating Season) by creating fatuous parodies of the Christopher Robin poems in some of his later stories, and claiming that Milne “was probably jealous of all other writers. But I loved his stuff.”

A.A.Milne with his son Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear - photograph: Howard Coster

A.A.Milne with his son Christopher Robin Milne and Pooh Bear – photograph: Howard Coster

As discussed, Milne is most famous for his two Pooh books about a boy named Christopher Robin (named after after his son, Christopher Robin Milne), and various characters inspired by his son’s stuffed animals, most notably the bear named Winnie-the-Pooh.

It’s not generally known that Christopher Milne’s stuffed bear, originally named “Edward”, was renamed “Winnie-the-Pooh” after a Canadian black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg), which was used as a military mascot in World War I, and left to London Zoo during the war.

“The pooh” comes from a swan called “Pooh”.

E. H. Shepard illustrated the original Pooh books, using his own son’s teddy, Growler (“a magnificent bear”), as the model.

The rest of Christopher Robin Milne’s toys, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger, were also incorporated into A. A. Milne’s stories, while two more characters – Rabbit and Owl – were created from Milne’s imagination.

The original toys

The original toys

Christopher Robin Milne’s own toys are now under glass in New York where 750,000 people visit them every year.

The fictional Hundred Acre Wood of the Pooh stories derives from Five Hundred Acre Wood in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, South East England, where the Pooh stories were set. Milne lived on the northern edge of the forest at Cotchford Farm, and took his son walking there. E. H. Shepard drew on the landscapes of Ashdown Forest as inspiration for many of the illustrations he provided for the Pooh books. The adult Christopher Robin commented: “Pooh’s Forest and Ashdown Forest are identical”. Popular tourist locations at Ashdown Forest include Galleon’s Lap, The Enchanted Place, the Heffalump Trap and Lone Pine, Eeyore’s Sad and Gloomy Place, and the wooden Pooh Bridge where Pooh and Piglet invented “Poohsticks”.

People have wondered why there weren’t more Pooh stories, given their huge success. But the success of his children’s books was to become a source of considerable annoyance to Milne, whose self-avowed aim was to write whatever he pleased and who had, until then, found a ready audience for each change of direction: he had freed pre-war Punch from its ponderous facetiousness; he had made a considerable reputation as a playwright (like his idol J. M. Barrie) on both sides of the Atlantic; he had produced a witty piece of detective writing in The Red House Mystery (although this was severely criticised by Raymond Chandler for the implausibility of its plot). But once Milne had, in his own words, “said goodbye to all that in 70,000 words” (the approximate length of his four principal children’s books), he had no intention of producing any re-workings of Pooh lacking in originality, especially given that one of the sources of inspiration, his son, was growing older.

The Wine the Pooh phenomenon shows little signs of slowing. The rights to A. A. Milne’s Pooh books were left to four beneficiaries: his family, the Royal Literary Fund, Westminster School and the Garrick Club. After Milne’s death in 1956, his widow sold her rights to the Pooh characters to Stephen Slesinger, whose widow sold the rights after Slesinger’s death to the Walt Disney Company, which has made many Pooh cartoon movies, a Disney Channel television show, as well as Pooh-related merchandise.

In 2001, the other beneficiaries sold their interest in the estate to the Disney Corporation for $350m. Previously Disney had been paying twice-yearly royalties to these beneficiaries. The estate of E. H. Shepard also received a sum in the deal.

The copyright on Pooh expires in 2026. In 2008, a collection of original illustrations featuring Winnie-the-Pooh and his animal friends sold for more than £1.2 million at auction in Sotheby’s, London. Forbes magazine ranked Winnie the Pooh the most valuable fictional character in 2002; Winnie the Pooh merchandising products alone had annual sales of more than $5.9 billion. In 2005, Winnie the Pooh generated $6 billion, a figure surpassed by only Mickey Mouse.

The wisdom of Pooh – its sheer, adorable humaneness – is easy to discern when one browses through some of the more famous aphorisms that are scattered throughout the books. Here are our favourites. Which are yours?

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
― House at Pooh Corner

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
― Christopher Robin to Pooh

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
― Winnie the Pooh

“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”
― Winnie the Pooh

“Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
― Winnie the Pooh

“Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.”
― Winnie the Pooh

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
― Winnie the Pooh

“I’m not lost for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.”
― Winnie the Pooh

The last couple are possibly our personal favourites. This:

“One of the advantages of being disorganised is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”
― Winnie The Pooh

And this:

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh.
“What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.”
― Winnie The Pooh

Milne also clearly understood that not everyone could share his relentlessly sunny view of the world. Or perhaps, that he needed to ventilate hiseeyore1 own doubts and fears occasionally.

In this wise, I have always enjoyed Eeyore’s character more than any other in the books. His relentlessly curmudgeonly pessimism is so refreshing, tinged, as it is, with a stoic determination. If you every find us down in the dumps, Dear Reader, perhaps you might kindly remind us of this wonderful passage.

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
And freezing.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore.
“However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

Until the next earthquake, then, people, we celebrate A.A. Milne.

Bobbing along


Well, Dear Reader, a very Happy Christmas and a Bonnie Hogmanay and 2016 to you.

We have been a little remiss in not posting much in the last few days due to two simple and conjoined facts: one, Mr and Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink are officially on holiday, (on a swanky cruise ship, no less), and two, the internet is so cripplingly expensive that we decided to hold off a few days before plunging headlong into our usual travel-ese. That this has kept us off the all-consuming Facebook has been a relaxing coincidence.

We are, in fact, swooshing up from Sydney to Vanuatu and New Caledonia for a brief and – trust us – well-deserved break, and so as we write we are somewhere south of Lougainville and north of Port Vila in international waters off Vanuatu. It’s easy to work out that we’re in international waters, because the casino is open.

There, a bunch of dour Chinese and one cheery Brit will take your money with remarkable rapidity if you absolutely can’t think of anything else to do at all, and you have to be somewhat desperate as there are at least three trivia competitions running concurrently 24 hours a day, and the brain training they offer is free – and we simply luuuurve trivia competitions – so you’d have to be dead keen on the masochism of cards, craps and roulette to spend too much time buried there in the bowels of the vessel.

Then again, we did notice some other people actually winning, which is somewhat of an alien concept to us, so maybe we just haven’t got the knack of it yet. After thirty years playing Blackjack, and almost invariably losing, we are close to assuming the knack will never arrive. Or that there is, in fact, no knack to be got. But we are not quite at that point yet.

And then again, again, there do seem to be a large percentage of young couples in there, with her gazing adoringly up into his eyes, as he rashly slams down another $20 to buy a card on twelve, and ends up duly eviscerated with 22. It’s as if, time after time, the young lad is saying to his belle, “there be no dragons around for me to slay on your behalf, sweet Princess, so have a look at how painlessly I can lose a week’s wages while you watch”. Maybe it’s not masochism but rather machismo that’s on display. Indeed, it deserves it’s own word. Masochismo works.

As first time cruisers, we have been simultaneously entranced, horrified, and sometimes simply bemused by the experience.

It’s hard, for example, not to simply sigh with pleasure when this greets you as you sit down to write.




Cruising is gaining rapidly in popularity around the world as the new “go to” middle class vacation. We say “middle class” because the upper classes only cruise in uber-luxury mini-liners with 20 guests and 437 crew, either on a bateaux of their own or at a pinch a ship owned by a friend or even a discrete tour company called something like BlueOcean Wanderer – the name chosen to imply “unhurried, un-shackled, off the beaten track, and above all, daahling, no middle class people”. (We apologise in advance to the owners of BlueOcean Wanderer, which no doubt exists somewhere.)

The poor can’t afford anything more than a quick trip up and down their local capital city waterway on a Sunday. Even if they plumped for an interior cabin and no drinks package* – of those, more later – they couldn’t chuff up the vast sums cruise companies charge for all-you-can-eat corned beef hash** – more on that later, too – and hot and cold running 70s music trivia.

Which leaves us ensconced with our fellow middle-class pretend-riche, some of whom are very nice, and some of whom are utterly horrid. A bit like life in general, really, but with waves.

We have discovered that we can ascertain someone’s status back on dry land pretty accurately by the grade of orange in their fake tan – the more orange, the more entre nous – and their level of bling.

Bling is in inverse proportion to social status. A discrete golden chain married to a demure and only half-awful pair of what used to be called Bermuda shorts suggests an accountant in training, or a teacher. Especially with a tired looking wife and squalling toddler in tow.

When blinded by what looks like half of Australia’s national debt coiled round and round a neck the size of a small bull matched with a disturbingly tight pair of bathers revealing, as it were, a substantial package, you can pretty much assume “delivery driver who earns twice what you do, but who missed out on Mrs Dalyrymple’s finishing school”. And that’s just the girls.

Most of the passengers are white. Most of the staff aren’t. Many of the staff are from the world’s low-income countries –  Indonesia, Philippines, India, Bangladesh, China, South Africa, Mexico – and they work very long hours and extremely hard. It’s also easy to assume that they get paid the best part of bugger all, as the cruise line charges a quick and easy 18% “gratuity” charge on everything you spend on board – although one has no way of knowing whether that gratuity charge actually gets to the workers, or if it does, whether that simply makes up a substantial portion of their wages, thus reducing the wage bill of the employer.

One is also encouraged to tip exceptional service directly, which means that 95% of the staff are obsequiously gracious, ineffably cheery and obsessively intrusive the entire time.

This is due to a number of factors – including their quite and innate genuine niceness – but also very clearly their desire to get tipped.

To an egalitarian Aussie eye it appears forced, and demeaning, for both staff and customer. It is, of course, the “American way”, a country where a campaign to establish a national wage of just $15 an hour has been met with furious opposition from employers happier to pay $6-10 an hour. To put that in perspective, Miss Wellthisiswhatithink gets A$25 an hour for babysitting/nannying, and wouldn’t accept less, nor would it be offered.


Cocktails. Or as the young and restless with a drinks package call them, "Breakfast".

Cocktails. Or as the young and restless with a drinks package call them, “Breakfast”.


The other outcome of this low wage environment is that all staff – and we mean all staff – seem utterly preoccupied with selling drinks packages*, whereby one (outrageously expensive) daily charge covers all your drinks, except top shelf stuff, but where that tariff is set so high that you basically have to set out determinedly to drink your weight in rum and coke from about 10am every morning to get your money’s worth. Selling a package equals kudos, and job security.

For the delivery van drivers this temporarily-arranged alcoholism isn’t a problem, so long as there’s going to be a decent break between them getting off the ship and getting back behind the wheel, and they are all cheerfully smashed pretty much 24-seven. For those who don’t wish to be unsteady on our feet by lunchtime, or who want to avoid falling overboard, it’s an egregious waste of money.

But every time one orders a drink or a bottle of wine – which are triple or quadruple what one would pay in Australia for very average drops – one is incredulously asked “You don’t have a package, Sir?” and the sales spiel starts again while you feel obliged to dream up new excuses for your parsimony. It is, in a word, bloody annoying. Two words.


"Hello Ladies."

“Hello Ladies.”


The English language skills of the staff also often leave much to be desired, but the effect is also frequently very funny.

Watching a diminutive high-pitched Chinese waiter go up to a table full of six giant buffed Aussie blokes and start with a squeaky “Hello, Ladies, my name is Kwan and I am your waiter tonight … now, ladies, I just need to tell you about our wine special for this evening” has it’s own wonderful schadenfreude.

Needless to say, the Aussie blokes are both too polite and too anal to correct him, so night after night the cabaret repeats.

The world that is today intrudes on our idyll every time anyone wants to get on and off. Security is as fierce as at any airport, with sniffer dogs checking for bombs, and machines that go ping scanning us all on at initial embarkation and on and off whenever there is a shore excursion. I am not sure what they think we’ll be bringing back on board – nerve-gas-infused coconuts? – but it seems churlish to object and no one does. This is the one place that all the smiles disappear to be replaced with rapt attention and scowls. We are not aware that the South Pacific is a key target for terrorists of any ilk, but “you can’t be too careful nowadays”. The security officer busting a quick dance move to SuperTrooper by Abba which was blasting out to keep us amused was a welcome and timely diversion from pondering just how depressing much of the world has become. Before we left from Sydney we happened across two Border Force (customs) personnel taking snap after snap of the Sydney Opera House on their iPhones from an upper deck of the ship. “Refuse to believe that’s security focused” we opined. “Nope,” said one, “We just don’t get up here much.”

Somehow their extra-curricular casualness made us feel safer, rather than worried. But somewhere, as we write these words, we know this very scene will be stolen by a hack writer in Hollywood and coming soon to a screen near you will be pictures of the soul-less terrorist or brutal bank robber unknowingly snapped by a bludging Border Force officer, which happy chance is the vital clue that leads to their discovery and arrest. You heard it here first.


Corned Beef Hash

All hail the Hash


Which leads us, tortuously but inevitably, to the corned beef hash**. Which delightful concoction, as we haven’t traveled all that much in the USA, was a very pleasant and new experience for us, and which we have been devouring assiduously since Day 1. Corned beef, (yes, like the stuff that comes in tins), onions, and potatoes. Hashed. And fried. From the French, hacher. (Never let it be said our writing is not educational.) Or as the civilised world would call it, mashed.

Despite being a cholesterol bomb it is, quite simply, delicious, and goes perfectly with eggs and bacon and baked beans and tomatoes and fried bread and anything else one can squeeze onto one’s all-you-can-eat breakfast plate. Or plates. And it is matched very well with scaldingly hot American coffee, too, which actually isn’t anything like as bad as everyone else likes to pretend. Provided one adds lashings of milk. When drunk black it is indeed unpotable bitter mud and would be better used as tar on the bottom of passing leaky native canoes.

What is really interesting about the corned beef hash – beyond its Satanic moreishness – is that it appears to be comprised of at least 50% salt.

As was the buerre blanc on the escargots, the bifteck minute which was cut so thin that anything over thirty seconds would turn it into leather, and the beouf bourgingon which had no discernible red wine in it (not even the cheap crap; it hadn’t even had an open bottle of cheap crap waved anywhere near it) but plenty – plenty – of salt.

We are most grateful that our arteries are only temporarily being loaned to America. God knows how anyone there over the age of 50 ever survives their middle age – their blood pressure must be at least 200 over 120. In all seriousity, the difference between the two cuisines is stark. The food quality is genuinely pretty good, especially considering the number of people being fed, (nigh-on constantly), but the salt content of many dishes would put the Dead Sea to shame. We reckon someone, somewhere, as we speak, is injecting honeydew melons with salt water.

The cheese is, needless to say, inedible.

Anyhow, tonight is New Year’s Eve, meaning we are now going off to be dragooned into a mass party (all dressed in formal clothes, no less), by our talented and relentlessly cheerful MC/Factotum/Trivia Quizmaster/Tour Director, who will cram us into a small and sweaty space to shout “Ten, nine, eight, seven …” before what seems like ten thousand yellow balloons are dropped on our heads, and everyone starts kissing each other frantically.

As the outbreaks of Norovirus on cruise ships has led them to placing hand sanitisers everywhere – Heaven forfend that you would try and get into a restaurant without the cheery chappy from Indonesia squirting germ killer onto your hands – “Time for Washy-Washy! Time for Washy-Washy!” – there’d be a bells going off and a near riot if you tried to sneak past un-washy-washied – one would imagine that thousands of extremely drunk and hot strangers kissing each other repeatedly might not be the wisest activity. But hey, when in Rome.

More tomorrow. After the trivia, natch.



trump dogs


According to Mr Donald Trump, an extreme toupe who is running for President in the USA, police in London are terrified for their lives right now due to the terror threat.

By his logic I’d hate to think how Americans feel about their dogs right now.

At the sprightly age of 68, Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood could have been expecting to quietly gather some moss, instead he’s going to be changing nappies.

The Rolling Stones band member is expecting twins with his wife Sally Humphries, 37, who owns a theatre production company.


Ronnie Wood and his wife Sally.

Ronnie and his wife Sally. Source: Getty

A spokesperson for the band said: “Sally and Ronnie Wood are delighted to announce that they are expecting twins in June 2016. Needless to say, they are thrilled and overjoyed with the wonderful news.”

Not a matter that most 68 year olds want to deal with.

Not a matter that most 68 year olds want to deal with.

It is not really for us to comment censoriously on other people’s life choices, and I am sure Mr and Mrs Wood are both delighted and in love. But we cannot help but wonder whether it is actually wise to have kids at 68.

Ronnie will be about 74 or 75 when he has to attend his kids’ first day at primary school.

More than 80 when he has to go along to see them in their first secondary school bandslam. There’ll be a special audience section for those with zimmer frames, we trust.

And with the best will in the world, it can’t be THAT much longer until Ronnie turns up his toes, and he will be fortunate indeed to see his new kids grow to adulthood. Very unlikely to see them at college, or see them married, and definitely won’t see their children or be able to contribute any grandfatherial support.

We just wonder whether people consider such matters when getting pregnant? Whether or not it’s actually good for the kids?

Go on, call us old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy. You know you want to.

syria photo


At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk, deep in darkest Melbourne, people occasionally pass us vital documents they think should be broadcast to a wider audience.

This is how we stumbled across this revelatory but top secret intelligence briefing on the situation in Syria and Iraq.

With luck, this highly restricted document will clear up any confusion you have on the situation over there. We publish so that the truth may be known. Eat your heart out, Wikileaks.

So … (deep breath) …


Let’s kick off with Syria. President Assad (who is bad) is a nasty guy with a bad moustache who only got the job because his Dad had it before, but then he got so nasty that his people rebelled and the Rebels (who are good) started winning. (Hurrah!) This is despite the dorky Assad having a rather dishy British wife who was universally believed to be good, until she spent too much on shoes and stuff and became generally considered to be bad.

Things were sort of going OK for the good rebels but then some of them turned more than a bit nasty and are now called IS or ISIL or Islamic State or Daesh (doesn’t matter what they’re called, they are definitely bad) and some rebels continued to support democracy (who are still good) and some we are just not all that sure about (who may be bad, or good, but time will tell).

IS are so bad even Al Qaeda (really bad too) don’t like them and start fighting them.

The Americans (who are good) start bombing Islamic State (who are bad) and giving arms to the Syrian Rebels (who are good) so they could fight Assad (who is still bad), which was good. But this ironically puts America on the same side as Al Qaeda in Syria, which is just plain odd.

Now. There is a breakaway state in the north run by the Kurds who want to fight IS (which is a good thing) but the Turkish authorities think they are bad, so we have to say they are bad whilst secretly thinking they’re good and giving them guns to fight IS (which is good) but that is another matter altogether and we’ll get more confused so we’ll let it go. Meanwhile the Turks have shot down a Russian plane which they say was flying in their airspace (which is definitely bad).

Anyway, getting back to Syria and Iraq.

So President Putin (who is bad, because he invaded Crimea and thejoker Ukraine and killed lots of folks including that nice Russian man in London with polonium-poisoned sushi) has decided to back Assad (who is still bad) by attacking ISIS (who are also bad) which is sort of a good thing?

But Putin (still bad) thinks the Syrian Rebels (who are good) are also bad, and so he bombs them too, much to the annoyance of the Americans (who are good) who are busy backing and arming the rebels (who are also good).

Now Iran (who used to be bad, but now they have agreed not to build any nuclear weapons and bomb Israel with them are now sort-of good) are going to provide ground troops to support Assad (still bad) as are the Russians (bad) who now have both ground troops and aircraft in Syria.

So a new Coalition of Assad (still bad) Putin (extra bad) and the Iranians (good, but in a bad sort of way) are going to attack IS (who are very bad) which is a good thing, but also the Syrian Rebels (who are good), which is bad.

Annoyingly, now the British (obviously good, except that funny and rather confused Mr Corbyn, who is probably bad in an ineffective sort of way) and the Americans (also good) and the Australians (who are generally considered good because they’re mainly about cold beer and beaches) cannot attack Assad (still bad) for fear of upsetting Putin (bad) and Iran (good/bad) so now they have to accept that Assad might not be that bad after all compared to IS (who are super bad).

So Assad (bad) is now probably good, being better than IS (but let’s face it, drinking your own wee is better than IS, so no real choice there) and since Putin and Iran are also fighting IS that may now make them good.

America (still good) will find it hard to arm a group of rebels being attacked by the Russians for fear of upsetting Mr Putin (now good) and that nice mad Ayatollah in Iran (sort of good) and so they may be forced to say that the Rebels are now bad, or at the very least abandon them to their fate. This will lead most of them to flee to Turkey and then on to Europe (which is bad) or join IS (still the only constantly bad group, and that would be really bad).

For all the Sunni Muslims in the area, an attack by Shia Muslims and Alawites (Iran and Assad) backed by Russians (infidels) will be seen as something of a Holy War, and the ranks of Daesh will now be seen by the Sunnis as the only Jihadis fighting in the Holy War. Hence many Muslims will now see IS as good even though they are the baddest of the bad. (Doh!)

Sunni Muslims will also see the lack of action by Britain and America in support of their (good) Sunni rebel brothers as something of a betrayal (not to mention we didn’t do anything about a corrupt Shia government being imposed on Sunnis when we took over Iraq: hmmm, might have a point there) and hence we will be seen as more Bad. Again.

A few million refugees are now out of harm’s way (good) but nobody really wants them (bad) and now winter’s coming (bad). Lots of people think the refugees are how IS will sneak bad guys into Europe (which would be bad, but there’s no evidence of it happening, which is good, but that doesn’t stop people being frightened of them even though they have no reason to be, which is bad). Meanwhile the French have decided to bomb Iraq to pay back IS for the attacks (bad) in Paris and other countries like Lebanon and Jordan also look like getting dragged further and further into the conflict (bad).

So now we have America (now bad) and Britain (also bad) and Australia (bad, but with good beer), providing limited support to Sunni Rebels (bad) many of whom are looking to IS (good/bad depending on your point of view, even though they’re still really bad) for support against Assad (now good) who, along with Iran (also good) and Putin (also, now, unbelievably, good) are attempting to retake the country Assad used to run before all this started?

There. I hope that this clears it all up for you.

And if in doubt, fuck it, let’s all just bomb someone else. ‘Cause that will help.

Well done, Mr McClure, whoever and wherever you are. Well done, that man.


Well done, Mr McClure, whoever you are. Well done, that man.