windowthroughtime

A wry view of life for the world-weary

Category Archives: News

We Call Upon The Author To Explain

The Eric Hoffer Book Award is one of the top and most prestigious American literary awards for independent books. Last Monday (May 14th) the results of the 2018 Book Award were announced.

I am delighted to reveal that my latest book, Fifty Curious Questions, made its way through a packed field to be named as a Category Finalist. If nothing else, it is gratifying to know that a quirky piece of English whimsy written firmly in a tongue-in-cheek style has transferred successfully across the Atlantic.

The book is available in all formats via http://www.martinfone.com

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Shed Of The Week (2)

Every sort out at Blogger Towers seems to start with the garden shed. It has become so regular an event that I have begun to consider alternative uses for this outhouse. So it was with some interest that I came across this week reports of derring-do on the Welsh Pendine Sands in Carmarthenshire.

Intrepid Kevin Nicks has built himself what he claims to be the world’s only road-legal motorised shed, cannibalising, initially, his old VW Passat that was festering on his driveway. He has driven over 20,000 miles in it, mainly in support of charities, including a trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

The addition of an Audi RS4 engine enabled Nicks to smash his previous record of 80 mph and reach an astonishing 100 mph on Pendine Sands.

But Nicks isn’t finished yet. He plans an attempt on his new record this weekend, on tarmac at Elvington near York.

Let’s hope he does it.

Icon Of The Week

I despair of the snowflake generation.

In the days before ring pulls, invented by Ermal Cleon Fraze in 1962, since you ask, opening a can was always a bit of a challenge. I fondly remember lugging party sevens to friends’ homes – great tins full of crap beer – and then setting about opening them with chisels and hammers, drenching myself and anyone else foolish enough to be within the vicinity. It was ever thus – after all, it took mankind nearly half a century after the invention of the tin can to come up with an opener. (https://windowthroughtime.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/canned-history/)

For those of us keen to recreate the glorious days before ring pulls, one of the last bastions of joy has been the Fray Bentos pie. But, alas, I read this week, its manufacturers are bowing to consumer pressure to make the tin fortress that guards assiduously its haul of gristly meat bathed in succulent gravy easier to open. I always thought that was the purpose of the pie – you cooked it and then threw it away, unopened and uneaten. It was a powerful political statement during the Falklands War!

Anyway, social media has been full of moans about the pie tin and there have even been videos posted of people using the traditional method of hammers, screwdrivers and chisels to open them. Modern lightweight can openers don’t seem to touch them.

The pie manufacturers, Baxters Food Group, have had to resort to advising customers “to use a robust can opener.” They even, helpfully, recommend an opener, retailing at £8.50, four times the cost of the pie.

But for some this still won’t cut it and the Fray Bentos tin is now being redesigned in a bid to “improve openability”.

So the end is nigh for an icon of life as it used to be.

Sad. Of course, the snowflakers could just buy something else.

Discovery Of The Week (9)

Here’s a cautionary tale about the perils of not knowing the minutiae of your job description and being too honest, I came across this week.

I don’t know about you but I tend not to carry my gold bars about with me. They are too damn heavy. For some unaccountable reason a person or persons unknown hid seven of the things, each weighing a kilo and collectively worth around £240,000, in a rubbish bin in South Korea’s Incheon International Airport. A diligent cleaner found them.

Under the country’s Lost Articles Act, if an owner doesn’t come forward within six months to claim their property, the finder is entitled to receive between 5 and 30% of the value of the goods – up to a cool £48,000 in this case.

Alas, the cleaner is likely to miss out on this bonanza. His employers, spoil sports that they are, have said that he was “working as airport staff and it is part of a cleaner’s job to find lost things.

He should have phoned a friend!

Or perhaps he could lend the Norbertine monks of the Belgian town of Grimbergen a hand. They are desperately combing through their library and archives in search of the ancient recipe for Grimbergen beer. The monks last brewed the famous dark beer in 1797 but then the French revolution turned their quiet, ordered life upside down.

Confusingly, there already is a Grimbergen beer commercially available but it is brewed by the Belgian beer giants, Alken-Maes, for the local market and Carlsberg for international topers. Sportingly, the two brewers are giving financial assistance to the monks to establish a micro-brewery on the very spot where their predecessors brewed. They hope to have their first batches ready for New Year 2020.

All that is missing is the recipe.

Perhaps there is a clue in their motto, ardet nec consumitur (burned but not destroyed). I would check the grates.

Railway Station Of The Week

I used to commute to and from London’s Waterloo station every day. It is no surprise that this testament to the grimness of commuting has been named for the fourteenth year running as the busiest UK railway station by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) with just under 100 million passengers journeys a year. That it will top the list is something you can rely upon, which is more than can be said for the services that run from the wretched place.

For a more pleasurable commuting experience you might want to try Barry Links station in Scotland which is on the Carnoustie to Dundee line and is one stop down from Golf Street station. Just 24 passengers, according to the ORR, got on or off this unmanned station in 2016 -17. Two trains stop a day, Mondays to Saturdays only, the 06.08 to and the 19.11 from Dundee. There is no buffet so make sure you catch your train.

Even Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall, who in 2017 visited all of Britain’s 2,563 National Rail stations didn’t alight there. Under their self-imposed rules of their escapade, they had to be travelling on a train that stops at each station on their list.

Still things may just be about to change.

Shippea Hill in Cambridgeshire, last year’s least used station with a paltry twelve passengers, saw its numbers rocket, thanks to the oxygen of publicity, to a more respectable 156. And supporters of Barry Links think that the Open Golf Championship at Carnoustie this year may just boost numbers.

We will see.

Note Of The Week

Is the Euro really worthless?

Pictures have been doing the rounds of a woman proudly holding a purple Euro note bearing the face of the darling of anti-capitalism, Karl Marx. The value of the note? Precisely nothing.

It’s all part of the celebrations being held in the German city of Trier to mark May 5th which would have been the two hundredth birthday of their most famous son, Karl Marx.

They have been selling like hot cakes, a further 20,000 have had to be printed to keep up with demand.

Selling at €3 a time, they are, according to the Trier Tourismus and Marketing GmbH, a perfect representation of Marx’s critique of the capitalist system.

I’m not sure about that but they are a damn sight more tasteful than the bearded Karl Marx rubber duck complete with a copy of Das Kapital tucked under one wing – yours for just €5.90. And if this wasn’t bad enough, the Chinese have donated a grotesque three-tonne bronze statue of Marx to the city.

Watch out for reports of whirring noises from Highgate Cemetery this weekend!

Sporting Event Of The Week (13)

The thought of running any distance is anathema to me but here’s an event – sold out I’m afraid – which might even have appealed to me in a moment of madness, the Inaugural Boerne 0.5k, which takes place in the Texan town today (5th May).

Yes, that’s right – the course stretches just 546 yards, starting off opposite the Dodging Duck bar which, sportingly, will provide each participant with a free pint before the event, and ending at the Cibolo Creek Brewery where further alcoholic refreshments will be available. Halfway along the course is a coffee and doughnut station and that is where the designated smoking area is.

The monetary cost of entering – there is a physical cost too I’m sure – is $25 and proceeds go to a charity, Blessings in a Backpack, which provides meals at the weekend to poor and needy American children.

If, like me, the thought of running, even fuelled by a couple of pints, a doughnut, coffee and a few gaspers, is too much to bear, for an extra $25 you could become a VIP, entitling you to be shuttled, in a 1963 VW bus no less, along the course.

Whether you are a runner or a VIP you get a medal and a car sticker. The only downer on what is a truly worthwhile event is that a bagpipe player will drone their way through Amazing Grace at the starting line. If that doesn’t get you moving, nothing will.

Coffin Of The Week

Death is a booming business – according to the World Health Organisation 100 of us die every minute – and funerals are becoming increasingly more expensive and come at a cost to the environment

With that in mind, I was intrigued by a funeral exhibition held in a church in Amsterdam, not least because its theme was that it was time that we thought outside of the box.

The latest trend, it seems, is for eco-friendly, flat-packed coffins. Two celebrants from the Hastings area, the aptly named Kate Dyer and Kate Tym, have already run successful coffin clubs where members can meet to make and decorate their own final resting places. If nothing else, it provides the elderly with company and a focus for what remains of their life.

The problem, though, is what to do with the thing once it is built and you are not quite ready to get into it. William Warren from Shelves for Life has the answer. His rather sleek and elegant storage system can be converted into a coffin, providing the ultimate storage space for the here and now and the after-life.

The problem with it, though, is that it still needs to be converted into a coffin when it is needed, probably the last thing your grieving relatives will want to do.

My preference would be to make the coffin ahead of time and use it as a wardrobe in the hallway for hanging hats and coats. It would make a tremendous conversation piece as guests entered the hallowed portals of Blogger Towers and would serve as a timely reminder of our mortality.

Food for thought, indeed.

Sporting Event Of The Week (12)

Around 40 competitors rocked up to Dunbar on Scotland’s east coast last weekend to take part in the second European Stone Stacking Championships. The venue, Lauderdale Park and Eye Cave Beach, was chosen because the many shapes, sizes and colours of the rocks in the area make it a paradise for stone stackers – at least that is what the organisers say.

I hadn’t realised it but the benefit of stacking stones, at least of you believe the publicity for the event, is that you get moments of clarity as you search for the next stone or find the sweet spot of gravity when you know you’ve got perfect balance. I suppose there are also periods of intense frustration as, jenga like, your piles come crashing down.

Be that as it may, there were a number of competitions spread over the weekend, including most stones balanced one on top of the other, a children’s competition, balancing against the clock – a timed competition rather than stacking stones against a timepiece which would have been rather easy – and the most artistic balance. The photos of some of the pieces are spectacular and oddly fascinating.

The overall winner was Pedro Duran from Spain whose prize included financial assistance to participate in the World Championships in Llano in Texas next year. Mind you, he only balanced 29 stones on top of each other, three fewer than last year’s winner.

Standards must be slipping.

Innovation Of The Week (6)

Is there no limit to the lengths supermarkets will go to to pander to the strange predilections of the so-called snowflake generation?

One of those fatuous surveys that are all too common these days has found that 37% of those born after 1980 prefer to avoid handling raw meat. Seeing the way the wind is blowing, from May 3rd Sainsbury’s, I read this week, are launching rip and tip pouches, known in the trade as doybags, which allow the poor souls to put their raw chicken into a pan without having to touch it.

Whatever next? Next thing you know they will be cooking it for them!

While we are on the subject of modern-day nonsense, I went to the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday – more of that anon. The following day I received an e-mail inviting me to complete a survey on my experience – you could spend a day filling these things in.

I was encouraged to tell them what I “really and truly thought”, but their desire for my opinion was not such that they would guarantee to respond to any comment I made. The e-mail was signed by Claire Baker who styled herself as Insight Manager.

Wtf?!

I have noticed recently a trend amongst organisations to saddle their employees with ever more ludicrous job titles but this takes the biscuit. Any insight into what this job actually entails would be gratefully received.