Sting Of The Week (2)

It is good to see that the Government is taking the bull by the horns and encouraging the farming community to provide an environment which is favourable to pollinators. The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) have even set up a whizzy website called Bees’ Needs as part of its national pollinator strategy.

There was a bit of a problem, though. When visitors to the site clicked on a link for further information, they were directed, in what can only be described as a honey trap, to a site which advertised the services of independent escorts throughout the land. Every campaign needs its incentives, I suppose.

The error has now been corrected and the correct link directs users to a site rich in information. But it took a while for the problem to be unearthed, which raises its own questions; are farmers not that bothered about bees or were they grateful to Defra for alerting them to the opportunities to doing their own bit of pollinating?

If you are not too careful, though, bees can cause a bit of a problem.

Take the astonishing case of Ms He who took herself to Fooyin University Hospital in Kaohsiung in Taiwan, complaining of a swollen eye. On examining her, doctors found four sweat bees living inside her eyelid, feeding on her tears. They were extracted, the doctors managing to save the creatures as well as the unfortunate woman’s eyesight. When she was weeding in a garden, Ms He felt something go into her eye.

She was not wrong.


Names Of The Week (4)

At the best of times, voting can be a bit confusing. Who do you vote for, what are you voting for, are you convinced they are even vaguely competent?

As Churchill once said, “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter” Perhaps we should take to heart Mark Twain’s aphorism; “if voting made any difference they wouldn’t let you do it.

Here in Britain we’ve made a pretty poor fist of matters psephological in recent times, so imagine what we would do if we had the dilemma that the voters in the district of Kensington-Malpeque on Prince Edward Island in Canada face on April 23rd.

The incumbent is a 37-year-old estate agent called Matthew Mackay. One of his challengers is a 64-year-old graphic artist called – you guessed it, Matthew Mackay.

Perhaps it is a legacy of the Scottish settlers who colonised the island off the east coast of Canada or the fact that the people there are not very imaginative when it comes down to names, either way it is a tad confusing. The elder candidate has sportingly offered to use his middle initial, J, to minimise the confusion and with an electorate of just 4,000 in a close-knit community, it may not matter too much.

That is, until the result is in, as we know to our cost.

Frustration Of The Week

It never ceases to amaze me what people will get up to in order to secure a place, if only for a while, in the Guinness World Record book.

Sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan. Take poor old Carlos Silver, a singer from the Dominican Republic.

He was attempting to smash Sunil Waghmore’s record, set in the Indian city of Nagpur in March 2012, of singing non-stop for 105 hours. All seemed to be going well for Carlos when he broke the 106 hour barrier.

Unfortunately, in order for a record to stand it has to be verified by officials from Guinness. Carlos’ problems started when they were shown a video of his performance and noted that he was taking breaks of up to two minutes between a song. The rules are very clear on that point; the singer can only take a break of up to 30 seconds. The hard-hearted men from Guinness had no option but to disqualify Carlos, the second time he has failed to secure the record.

Never mind, I’m sure he consoled himself by humming “Always look on the bright side of life”.

Recycling Tip Of The Week

I like to think I’m doing my bit for the environment by assiduously recycling everything that I can. Such is the plethora of well-meaning advice that we are inundated with that it is often difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

And this seems to be a problem that is besetting the recycling plants that the detritus of our modern lifestyle is delivered to.

Take aluminium cans. There is something deeply satisfying about crushing a can before putting it into the recycling bin. As well as the marvellous crunching sound pleasing my aesthetic sensibilities, the mangled can takes up less room in the bin.

But, I learned this week, it buggers up the system.

The majority of refuse sorting plants dump all of the refuse on to one conveyor belt and rely on a machine, which recognises items by its shape and material, to sort it out into the appropriate bins. However, it cannot cope with a mangled can and sticks it into the non-recyclable pile.

Either the machinery needs to be consigned to the scrapheap or we will have to change our habits.

To paraphrase Aristotle, you can’t do right for doing wrong.

Fart Of The Week (4)

So it’s official then. Farting in front of a colleague is not bullying. This ruling from the Victoria state court of appeal will come as a great relief to all flatulent employees.

In a bizarre case, David Hingst, in the process of claiming $1.8m from his former employers, Construction Engineering, claimed that his supervisor, Greg Short, would “lift his bum and fart” up to six times a day and what was worse, his office was “small and had no windows”.

The court gave Hingst short shrift, ruling that even if his allegations were true, flatulence did not necessarily constitute bullying.

Hingst is not taking this lying down, vowing to take his case to the high court, claiming that the psychological trauma he had suffered made it impossible to find other employment. He left the court room without making any comment to the waiting representatives of the press but was pictured holding a piece of clothing over his mouth and face.

Presumably someone had dropped one in the courtroom.

Cock Up Of The Week (2)

If there is one thing I have learnt in life, it is never tempt fate. The National Health Service seem to make a habit of it, deeming certain circumstances as never events, errors of such gravity that they should never happen. Of course, they do, not with alarming regularity but with a frequency that suggests that they should be renamed as “things we would rather not happen but, hey ho, that’s life (or death in extremis)”.

A report on the University of Leicester NHS Trust just published includes a list of never events that, belying their name, have happened on their watch. The one that brought tears to my eyes was a poor chap who was booked in for a bladder cystoscopy. However, his notes were mixed up with another patient’s and he ended up with a circumcision.

Not the end of the world, for sure, but something that would take some explaining to the wife.

The moral of the story? Never say never.

Luggage Of The Week

I have just got back from an enjoyable week’s trip to Spain. Unfortunately, my luggage decided that a six-day break was more than enough, thank you very much. It is somewhat disconcerting to receive an email as you get off the plane to receive an email informing you that your luggage did not make it on to the plane. I was reunited with my bag some 36 hours later.

A first world problem, for sure, and one that did not inconvenience me as much as Peter Messervy-Gross’ lost bags did him. Getting off a plane at the airport of the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, he hung around the luggage carousel forlornly as it began to dawn on him that his bags weren’t there. As he was there to compete in the Mongol 100, a race across the frozen Khovsgol Nuur lake in northern Mongolia, it was a bit of a disaster.

A search for replacement running shoes proved fruitless as his plates are size thirteen and the largest size available was eleven.

But instead of settling down for a few days swilling fermented yak’s piss as most of us would have done in the circumstances, Peter is made of sterner stuff. He did the run in his four-year-old work shoes, a pair of brogues, which stood up well to the test, although Peter suffered painful blisters.

Even more amazingly, he completed the course in temperatures dropping down to as low as -25C. Peter didn’t win but it is the taking part that is the main thing, after all.