A wry view of life for the world-weary

Category Archives: News

Sporting Event Of The Week (7)

Those of us who mourn the fact that the game of conkers has rather gone into the doldrums  thanks to the questionable efforts of the ‘Elf and Safety brigade, at least in schools, fearing that the little darlings will get a wrap on the knuckle from a stray shot or that fragments of an exploding conker will get into their eyes, will be heartened by the news that that the Northamptonshire village of Southwick hosted the World Conker Championships last weekend.

230 competitors from 14 countries as far-flung as New Zealand, the United States and Russia took part in the championship which was held, as usual, in the grounds of the Shuckburgh Arms. The winner of the male competition was an 85-year-old Chelsea Pensioner, John Riley, while Julie Freeman won the women’s competition and then claimed the overall crown by overcoming Riley’s stout resistance.

The competition nearly didn’t go ahead because there was a shortage of decent conkers. Many had dropped early this year – autumn does seem to have arrived earlier this year – but enough were gathered to save the day.

For those interested in playing the game properly, there must be at least 8 inches of lace between your knuckle and the conker and each player takes three alternate strikes at their opponent’s nut. The game is decided when one conker is smashed. If there is no result after five minutes, then each player is allowed a further nine strikes. If there is still no result, the winner is the one who struck his opponent’s conker most times.

It brought back wonderful memories of my childhood.


Wedding Hitch Of The Week

There is so much to think about when you are arranging a wedding – the right venue, seating plan, rings, suit etc – that it is easy for something to slip your mind as a poor groom found in Bingley in West Yorkshire last weekend.

Pride of place in the wedding celebrations was a white Lamborghini Huracán complete with red ribbons. Unfortunately, it had slipped the groom’s mind to insure the thing and so the Old Bill came along and impounded it, no doubt making it a wedding to remember for the assembled guests.

As is the way these days, the police put the boot in on Twitter, tweeting under the hashtag #Lamboseizey “Happy wedding day, can I have the keys please the officer said to the groom.

If you are getting married with a flash car, check the insurance. Another thing to add to the list!

Plastic Bag Tax Update (3)

The introduction of the plastic bag tax has led to the adoption of what are laughingly called bags for life. Those of us who have been suckered into using them glow with pride that we are doing our bit for the environment but at what cost to our health?

If you use them to carry raw foods such as fish and meat, I learned from the Food Standards Authority this week, you run the risk of contracting food poisoning. Apparently, there can be cross-contamination between produce if carried in the same bag, even if there is no obvious sign of leakage. The reason – traces of harmful bacteria that upset our tummies can often be found on the outer packaging of the meat and fish products.

The solution – plastic bags for life should be replaced on a regular basis – the life of a mayfly, perhaps – and fabric ones should be washed or cleaned. Or how about just using a one-off disposable bag?

Pumpkin Of The Week (2)

Regular readers of this blog will realise that pumpkins are a bit of a sore subject with me but I couldn’t resist this story. Rather like me, Christian Ilsley from Revere in Massachusetts was inspired by seeing enormous gourds at a local agricultural show to see whether he could grow a big pumpkin. Unlike me he succeeded, his aptly named Atlantic Giant weighing in at a very respectable 520 pounds.

The next question was what to do with it. Well, obviously, hollow it out, attach an outboard motor to it and pilot it across Boston harbour from Jeffries Point to Fish Pier and back. The pumpkin was harvested and hollowed out, the engine was attached and last Sunday the voyage was attempted.

All went swimmingly. Now that is what I call style!

Crime Spree Of The Week

I came across some distressing news for oenophiles this week. An unusually mild March followed by harsh frosts in April ravaged the fragile shoots of French vines – the result will be probably the poorest wine harvest in France since 1945, with output down to a mere 37.2 million hectolitres, a whopping 18% less than was harvested in 2016.

Worse still, the shortage of grapes has sparked off an unusual crime spree, which has left a number of growers crushed, if not shaken. Six and a half tonnes of grapes were nicked from a vineyard in Génissac, around 600 to 700 kg from one in Pomerol and around 500 vines were uprooted near Montagne. A fourth grape robbery occurred in Lelande-de-Pomerol. The local gendarmerie thinks that the culprits are professional vintners but, as yet, no one’s collar has been felt.

Irrespective of the euro pound conversion rate, it looks as though the prices of French plonk are set to rise.

You have been warned!

Social Media Victim Of The Week

Once upon a time one of the holiday rituals was to seek out a shop on the seafront which sold postcards, select a few and write some inane platitudes to friends and family. Invariably the scenes depicted on the cards bore no relation to reality – brilliant sunlit views as opposed to dank, damp, misty vistas – or were testaments to your questionable sense of humour. Often the wretched things would be received long after you had returned.

Nowadays the development of social media has made it so much easier to share the highs and lows of our holiday experiences with those who either couldn’t give a toss or are quietly seething with envy about another holiday. The consequence is that the postcard industry is dying on its feet.

Britain’s oldest postcard manufacturers, J Salmon, based in Kent, have announced, I learned this week, that they are shutting their presses at the end of the year, having been in business since in 1880. They cite social media and the change in holidaying habits – shorter breaks rather than a two-week stay – as the cause of their demise.

Perhaps in a year or so we will be sending them rectangular pieces of card with wish you were here dutifully inscribed. It will never catch on!

Device Of The Week (2)

It’s term time again at our universities. In my day, indolence and ingenuity were attributes associated with the student population. Here is a story I stumbled across this week which shows that this spirit is still alive and kicking.

Four students, Jamie Stewart, Josh Still, Josh White and Ewen MacKenzie, from the University of the West of Scotland (me, neither) lived opposite each other in Townhead Terrace in Paisley. The problem was that they lived in upstairs flats and it was a bit of a fag to go up and down the stairs to share the essentials of life with each other. The answer was a stroke of genius – erect a pulley system across the road between the windows of their bijou accommodation.

The system they designed deployed a bucket and a pair of strings, a white one along which the bucket travelled and a red one which they pulled. To erect the contraption a student stood in the middle of the road one night and threw one end of the string into an open window where it was caught and secured by another member of the brains trust. The same procedure was followed at the other property and the bucket was attached to the white string. It worked a treat.

Alas, one of their neighbours spotted and photographed the contraption in operation, alerting the Old Bill on the grounds of ‘Elf and Safety, fearing that objects could fall from the bucket and cause injury or damage. The police duly called round and ordered the students to dismantle the contraption. So it is back to trudging up and down stairs for them.

Pumpkin Update (9)

Diligent readers will have noticed that updates on my pumpkin growing exploits this year have been rather thin on the ground, rather like my pumpkins, if the truth be told. It has been an unmitigated disaster.

In April I sowed eight Snowman pumpkin seeds, of which only two germinated. The two survivors struggled for a while but rewarded me with some vines and a profusion of bright yellow flowers. The problem was that all the flowers were male. In order to pollinate and start a fruit, I needed a female flower.

As the weather in August was wet and miserable, even if a female flower had miraculously appeared, there would not have been time nor would the conditions have been conducive enough to develop a pumpkin worthy of its name. And so, dear readers, the vines, along with my hopes, were consigned to the compost heap.

There is always next year, I suppose.

Sock Of The Week

A suspicious object around seven inches long and two inches wide was seen protruding from a teenager’s bed in Coventry, I read this week. It being the Wild West that is Coventry and as you do in such circumstances, the family took fright and rang the local RSPCA, thinking that it was a lizard.

Officers duly arrived, the object was scrutinised – it wasn’t moving – and after some deliberation, the verdict was passed. It was nothing more than a pink stripy sock.

The girl got a flea in her ear and was told to take more care in tidying her room.

All in a day’s work for the RSPCA, it would seem.

Moral Dilemma Of The Week

Here’s a 21st century dilemma if there ever was one; should you hold a baby whilst drinking a beer?

Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, had a picture posted on Facebook showing him at a football match, giving his baby grandson a peck on the head while he (Turnbull, not the baby) was holding a bottle of beer. Turnbull was rather pleased with himself, giving the lie to the oft held belief that men can only do one thing at a time.

What he hadn’t anticipated was that the rather charming picture of grandfatherly affection would be interpreted in some quarters as an act of extreme folly, subjecting the poor infant to the noxious fumes of Aussie grog. The tide is turning, though, and even Turnbull’s political opponents are backing him.

Glad the Aussies are focusing on the real issues facing the world. For what it’s worth, I would ditch the baby and hang on to the beer. Cheers!