One would normally expect to see Welsh superstar and one-man sex bomb Tom Jones defending himself from women's underwear on the world's most celebrated stages. But yesterday afternoon Jones took a break from being part of the international jet set to go back to basics. He busked for petty cash outside London's Royal Festival Hall.
The singer and expert hip-gyrator entertained a crowd of several hundred with a medley of his and other people's hits to raise money for cancer research. The entire performance was filmed by the BBC for its weekly Culture Show programme, which will broadcast the performance on Tuesday 2 December. It is part of the show's British Busking Challenge segment, which is shown every week. Jason Donovan (who raised just under £100), Moby (£5.42), The Charlatans (£145), Roisin Murphy (£65), Mark Kermode (£114) and Camille (£50) have also participated in the challenge, which essentially involves famous people going to busk in public places to see how much money they can raise in 15 minutes. The artists compete to take their place in a league table which ranks singers on the amount of money they raise. Currently in pole position are Welsh choristers, the Fron Male Voice Choir, although judging by yesterday's show, Jones is set to smash this record.
"Hopefully, we are going to make some money," said Jones, modestly, wearing an expensive-looking blue overcoat, and Bono-esque, mauve-tinted, oversized "Elvis shades".
Accompanied by a similarly senior musician on acoustic guitar, Jones, 68, began with a rollicking rendition of Elvis Presley's "Hi Heel Sneakers", which was met with a smattering of polite applause. He then ramped things up a notch, by segueing into another Presley hit, "Money Honey". Then he started gently rolling his hips, much to the evident pleasure of the women in the audience. A French gentleman at the back shouted: "Give us 'Sex Bomb', Tom!" Jones ignored him. Instead, he launched into "Green Green Grass of Home". "The old home town looks the same as I step down from the train," he crooned. "And there to meet me is my Mama and Papa." Then there was Jerry Lee Lewis's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On". "Come over baby baby," he spat, catching the eye of a woman in the audience, giving her a wry wink.
Then things really hotted up with Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire". Soon, even the younger members of the audience were dancing along.
To conclude, one heckler shouted: "You should do this professionally, Tom." A wry smile crept across the Welsh smoothy's face. "I thought you were going to say don't give up the day job." This was greeted by much merry laughter. For a few punters on London's South Bank, Christmas had come early. Not for Jones, however. No underwear was thrown during the making of this performance.
A real linguistic curveball
Lovers of neologisms are always trying to jam more words into the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary. But still there are glaring gaps which only imported mots justes can plug. Zaftig, a Yiddish word, is a case in point. You have to stroke the top of your mouth for the "z" sound before almost biting your lip to sound the "f", and it all ends with a lingering hissing "ichhhhhh". Fitting, then, after all those provocative oral gymnastics, for zaftig to mean "a juicy, pleasingly plump woman". So thank you, Woody Allen, for your recent usage of the word to describe Scarlett Johansson, thereby bringing it to our attentions.
Robinho: clearly a man of the people
One would have thought a footballer earning £140,000 a week would have the necessary cash to travel in style. But that was not the case when Manchester City's star Robinho took his girlfriend on a shopping trip earlier this month. For anyone feeling the hard times, it's a real feel-good story: amazed bus passengers on their way to the Trafford shopping centre, were stunned to see the Brazilian striker pay for two tickets before climbing aboard. One onlooker said: "He sat downstairs as if it was the most normal thing for a multi-millionaire footballer." If you take care of the pennies...
At last, a hotline to the perfect telephone call
News that researchers have discovered how to make the perfect telephone call – it should apparently be exactly nine minutes and 36 seconds long and contain 24 seconds of discussion on the opposite sex – has sadly come too late for me.
While at university, I spent hundreds of dreadful hours chained to a desk in a sterile call centre trying to flog everything from rental cars to red wine. I was "a call-centre monkey", the bane of the great British public. And each summer I spent my time in an industrial estate outside Reading ruining people's evenings. I was that irritating voice who'd call as you were sitting down for dinner to offer a great deal on car rental you didn't need, or to sell you a case of New Zealand whites you couldn't afford. What's worse, I was really bad at it. So the new research from the Royal Mail would have come in handy. The perfect telephone call, apparently, covers family news, current affairs, personal problems and the weather and spends one minute and 42 seconds laughing but just one minute talking business.
Knowing, for example, that the perfect telephone call involves 12 seconds spent in silence and 42 seconds discussing current affairs would have been an invaluable retort when my managers screamed at me for not making enough sales. "No wonder I'm not making sales and receiving complaints," I could have replied, "I don't have enough time to discuss with our customers the current ethnic tensions in the Caucuses."