Graham Carter - the voice of age and experience

A HORSE walks into a bar and the barman says: “Why the long face?”

Laugh if you must, but I feel that horse’s pain.

It is a fact of life that I have not been blessed with the happiest-looking face, and the older I get, the more hangdog I look.

My wife often tells me to cheer up or asks me why I am looking so miserable.

Of course, sometimes I really am miserable.

Sometimes I despair of people’s needless negativity, the growing tide of selfishness in our society and the sheer stupidity of some people, and their willingness to vote for people who are even more stupid than themselves.

On the other hand, I see the good in people whenever there is good to see, and that’s often, so the nice news stories I read about eventually always outweigh the bad ones.

Unfortunately, this does not have a habit of translating itself to my face.

Most of the time my brain forgets to relay messages to the rest of me so that it accurately reflects what is going on inside.

I am not the only one in our house who suffers from this.

Alfie the cat has a similar problem.

Last week we celebrated his second birthday, and as he started off as a poor little rescue kitten and now has a loving home, you would think he would have plenty to be happy about, especially at this time of year.

Every evening he scampers off to the garden and chases everything that moves, and sometimes brings home some of the things he catches, so he can continue the fun in the living room. Such as the recent crisis that we refer to as ‘the frog incident’.

So life is great for Alfie.

Even though he’s one of those cats that would still be giving us big eyes and looking hungry if we cooked a whale for his dinner, he gets plenty to eat, and plenty of cosy places to sleep.

But for some reason that we can’t quite put our fingers on, he never seems overly impressed.

It’s probably something to do with his markings, which are quite distinctive. He is half black and half white, with a lot of splodges, including on his face, and somehow these suggest he is not too chuffed.

All this reminds me of one of my favourite quirks of Swindon’s history, which you will find at the Town Gardens.

It’s a miserable-looking carved face of a man - at least, I think it’s a man - on a wall in Quarry Road, a kind of gargoyle-like figure. Have a look for it next time you are there.

It looks half shocked and half angry, but there is a story that he never used to look so miserable - until some boys got to work on him and carved out a downturn in his mouth.

I think God might have played a similar joke on Alfie and me.

However, there is something worse than looking glum when you’re not, and that’s looking happy when you’re not.

Unfortunately, I have noticed this is an affliction that some newsreaders have, which is all very well when they are telling you about a cat being rescued from a tree, but when they have to deliver some awful or grave news, it’s unfortunate if the only face they have to deliver it with is one that can’t stop an underlying smile showing through.

Worst of all: you could have a face like Donald Trump and always looked pleased with yourself, when nobody else in the world has the faintest idea why.