I’ve been away for three weeks and in that time my neighbours have installed their external Christmas decorations. They seem to get earlier each year. At a time when we are urged to consider our global footprint, it seems rather counter-intuitive to waste so much juice on these extravagant displays.
Perhaps they should take a leaf out of the book of the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. If you have an electric eel swimming aimlessly around in the aquarium, why not put the energy it generates to some use.
Somewhat ingeniously, Joey Turnipseed, the Aquarium’s audio-visual production specialist, has attached sensors to the tank in which their electric eel, who goes by the name of Miguel Wattson, swims in. They harness its natural electrical discharge to a set of speakers which then use the charge to power a selection of Yuletide ditties and power the flashing set of Christmas lights.
The only draw back is that when the creature is foraging for food, it only emits around 10 volts of electricity and so the lights are somewhat dim. However, there can be a power surge when the eel wants to stun its prey by unleashing 800 volts of electricity.
Still, they are doing their bit for the planet, so more power to their elbow.
News has just reached me, I’m almost two months behind the
curve on this one, of a saucy robbery staged near the village of Broughton in
Northamptonshire. Thieves broke into a lorry parked in a lay-by by cutting
through a lock and made off with goods worth £1 million.
They were en route from Felixstowe Docks to the Kettering warehouse
of Rocks-Off Ltd, who describe themselves as a sex toy manufacturer and
designer. Sex toys are either going to be scarce this Christmas or are going to
be knocked out at bargain-basement prices.
Needless, police hope to have the culprits in handcuffs and
chains in due course and they could expect to face a stiff sentence.
In a few years’ time historians will start the difficult
task of explaining cogently and coherently how a once influential and respected
nation got itself into the state it has in the second decade of the
twenty-first century. Doubtless, as I write, psephologists are cutting and
dicing the available data to make some sense of it all.
The clue, though, may just lie in a report just released by
NHS Digital which reported that ten people aged between 90 and 99 were admitted
to hospital for what they term “mental health issues” caused by snorting
Charlie. Cocaine-related health issues have rocketed in the over-60s in the
decade from 2008-9 from a piss-poor 45 to a mind-blowing 379.
The report’s authors hazard a guess as to why, suggesting
that it may be a combination of people living longer, the lowering of the price
of the stuff and its increased purity. Perhaps there is a simpler explanation;
if you have always lived what might be termed a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, why
wouldn’t you continue to do so as long as you could?
Of course, it puts a different complexion on seeing an old
man with a runny nose and a stained collar. Don’t be quick to judge him. He may
be perfectly capable of looking after his personal hygiene, he’s just indulged
in some nose candy.
Thrill-seeking codgers, high on coke and other substances,
might just be the answer. I pass it on gratis to any would-be historians.
It has become more than a bit of a cottage industry these
days, helping students cope with stress. In my day a few beers and a couple of
smokes seemed to do the trick, but it seems millennials are looking for
something a bit more structured. Universities are falling over themselves to
offer the poor darlings therapy dog sessions, mindfulness meetings and even
designated quiet areas, what we used to call libraries.
Radboud University in the Dutch city of Nijmegen has gone
one better by constructing an open grave complete with blanket and the
inevitable yoga mat. Sessions last between 30 minutes and 3 hours a stretch. So
popular is the concept that students are dying to use it and there is now a
lengthy waiting list.
Once inside, you are encouraged to meditate on the meaning
of life and the futility of your existence. The chaplain claims that it is
making the youngsters appreciate their time on earth more.
They may just have a point. If after lying in an open grave
for an hour you conclude that your mortal existence is pretty futile, then,
hey, what are a few exams? You may as well go out and enjoy yourself. Carpe
diem, after all.
But going out can be another source of stress; what to wear?
Fortunately, help is at hand, courtesy of Northamptonshire County Council’s
adult learning department. Costing just £15 and running in February 2020, the
course promises “practical demonstrations on how to accessorise outfits”
and PowerPoint lectures and group discussions on how to wear shoes, belts, bags,
jewellery, and scarves.
My search for ways of livening up my funeral continues. Here’s
a story that has given me some food for thought, as well as highlighting the
perils of a shared freezer.
It is the custom in Germany, so I’m informed, to conclude a
funeral by having a trip to a restaurant for a piece of cake and a warming cup
of coffee. Here in Britain we retire to a pub and have a booze-up. No wonder we
make uncomfortable bedfellows with our European friends and partners, as we
seem to euphemistically call them these days.
Mourners in the German town of Wiethagen followed the
tradition and settled down to eat some cake. Unfortunately, thirteen of the
number, unlucky for some, felt nauseous and dizzy and needed medical treatment.
It turns out that one of the employees of the restaurant,
allegedly, asked her 18-year-old daughter to bake the cakes. This she did but
at the same time backed a hash cake, saving on the electric and gas bill, if
nothing else. Her mother, though, took the wrong cake out of the freezer.
The girl is helping police with their enquiries but at least
the funeral ended on a high.
The British Medical Journal, I find, is always a wonderful
source for the bizarre. Take this case, for instance.
Smuggling drugs into a prison requires a degree of
ingenuity, so I believe. In Australia a woman brought her boyfriend some weed,
helpfully hidden inside a rubber balloon. In order to get it past the prison
guards, he inserted said balloon up his right nostril. Once back in his cell,
looking forward to a nice chill and an evening’s contemplation on the meaning
of life, he was a bit nonplussed to be unable to retrieve it and assumed that
he must have swallowed it accidentally.
Over the next 18 years or so, he regularly suffered from
sinus infections and complained of nasal obstructions. He eventually started to
suffer from excruciating headaches and it was only then, according to Dr Murray
Smith of Westmead Hospital in New South Wales, that what really happened to the
balloon was revealed.
It had stayed put in his nostril and over the years calcium
and magnesium salts got to work and developed a rhinolith, a stone in the nasal
It has been successfully removed but when the man learned
what had happened, his nose was well and truly put out of joint.
Here’s news to depress even the cheeriest of souls.
Heart Radio, a commercial radio station here in Blighty, launched
on November 1st a new channel called Heart extra Xmas, promising “to
bring festive cheer across the UK”. Its schedule is one long soundtrack of
Christmas faves and anthems, playing 24 hours a day, every day of the week, uninterrupted
by such external nuisances like presenters or the news.
In their blurb, Heart describe it as “providing the
perfect soundtrack to your personal winter wonderland”. More like a