A wry view of life for the world-weary

Category Archives: News

Pumpkin Update (7)

Undaunted by last year’s disaster, I have decided to have another go at growing pumpkins. So full of anticipation and not a little trepidation, I have planted eight pumpkin seeds into pots containing well-watered and manured soil and put them into a propagator.

For this year’s horticultural experiment, I have chosen a variety of pumpkin called Snowman.It is a white coloured variety, surprise, surprise, with yellow orangish flesh and can grow to the size of a football. We will see! Naturally, I will keep you advised of progress.

Political Pundit Of The Week

So we are to have another general election.

In Isaac Asimov’s Franchise one person, Norman Muller, is selected to cast a vote that will decide who will be the next President of the United States will be. Perhaps we should give Brenda, a denizen of Bristol, this dubious honour on our behalf.

Animals Of The Week

Something is stirring in the undergrowth. The animal kingdom is getting a bit uppity as a rash of stories I came across this week shows.

Firstly, we had two brave bobbies chasing a pig through the mean streets of Redbridge in east London. The pig managed to evade the short arms of the law for a while but eventually captured and returned to the field from whence it had escaped.

Then on Easter Saturday a herd of 60 cows decided to take advantage of the group travel discounts offered by the benighted Southern Rail. They stood on the platform at Hever in Sussex only to find that because of their sudden arrival, the train company had decided to suspend services. They were moved on from the platform and services were restored. I wonder whether they left a deposit with the ticket office.

Then news reached me that April the giraffe seems to have let fame go to her head. You may recall that she gave birth live on webcam. Anyway, she is naturally quite protective of junior and when a vet had the audacity to get too close, she stretched out one of her long legs and gave him a sharp kick in the niagras.


Sign Of The Week

One of my greatest fears is to be trapped in a lift. Imagine being trapped in a lift with a group of competitors from the World Irish Dance Championships.

Belfast is the venue for this year’s competition which comes to a climax today at the Waterfront Hotel. It is a city which has been through a lot and the hotels are well used to having to take precautions to minimise threats and enhance the safety of their guests. The Dance Championships pose a particular problem because the participants will insist on perfecting their Michael Flatley moves in the lift.

The Premier Inn has chosen to take direct action by posting a sign warning guests not to dance in the lift. It points out, not unreasonably, “if you dance in the lifts they will stop moving and you will be stuck here until we can get an engineer to come and rescue you”.  That should do the trick.

Best to give the hotel a swerve followed by a pirouette and a double somersault until the terpsichoreans have disappeared and left the law-abiding, stationary, lift users to go up and down in peace.

Sporting Event Of The Week (3)

TOWT, aka my wife, and I occasionally spend a pleasant weekend in the environs of the beautiful village of Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. I have noticed the locals walk with a strange gait and now I know the reason why. It is all down to the ancient sport of shin-kicking, the championship for which has been held on the adjacent Dover’s Hill since 1612.

The rules are quite simple. The contestants stick straw down their trouser legs and assault each other’s shins with gusto. The winner is the last person standing and it is thought to be a variant of Cotswold Wrestling.

Alas, I read this week, the 2017 games, scheduled for June 2nd, have just been cancelled. The organisers cite a number of reasons for the decision including dwindling attendances, a reduction in the number of contestants and increased ‘elf and safety requirements, all of which have contributed to a shortage of dosh to stage this year’s event. The organisers hope, however, that they will be able to stage the event again next year.

As the fates of all of us are in the hands of a group of Alpha males, I have a suggestion. They could all be invited to Chipping Campden and settle the world’s problems with a few bouts of shin-kicking. They could then retire to the excellent Eight Bells and sample some of Hook Norton’s finest. I offer this suggestion to you, Boris, free of charge. Let’s see if you can make a mess of that.

The world would be a safer place and one of England’s finest traditions would be restored. What’s not to like?

Bollards Of The Week

I can’t resist a story involving bollards and Trossachs, so here goes.

If you are a knitter, are you bored with making socks, scarves, jumpers and baby clothes? If so, here’s a novel idea for you – bollard covers.

A circle of 40 knitters have made an Easter-themed cover for each of the 20 traffic bollards to be found in the Scottish town of Callander on the border of the Trossachs, I learnt this week. It took the ladies some 8 weeks and 100 balls of wool to finish the job.

They have form because this is the third bollard related project they have worked on. Last summer they knitted some Minion covers and for the town’s winter festival some on an Olaf theme (me neither).

From the photos I’ve seen they look cute and at least it took their minds off agitating for independence. I just hope they haven’t asked Cadbury or the National Trust to sponsor them.

Graffiti Of The Week

It is gratifying to know that they still do things in Cambridge with a dash of panache. Six new houses which have been built on the site of a pub (shame) in Water Street in Chesterton and selling for around £1.25m a time, have been daubed with graffiti. What is so unusual about what is regrettably an everyday occurrence is that the slogans were in Latin: “loci populum” and “locus in domo”.

Mary Beard – does the media think she is the only one with a working knowledge of Latin? – was drafted in to translate the slogans for the benefit of those who drifted through their version of the groves of Academe without an acquaintance with the ancient tongue. Her take was that it was too lovely a place to be turned into homes.

With vandals like these, Cambridge doesn’t need the services of the self-proclaimed, and to date anonymous, grammar vigilante who has prowled around the streets of Bristol at night for the last 13 years, rectifying the most egregious examples of the blight that is the grocer’s apostrophe. More power to his elbow and step ladder.

Illegitimi non carborundum, I say.

Crime Of The Week

In an age dominated by cyber-crime it is gratifying to know there is still a place for good old fashioned criminal skills. Take the break in at Berlin’s Bode Museum last Monday night where thieves got away with a 21 inch, 221 pound coin worth some 4 million Euros, known as the Big Maple Leaf.

The police found a rope, a ladder, a wheelbarrow and a burning Mercedes in an underground car park and have been able to reconstruct the m.o of the two burglars.

In the three-hour or so window when S-Bahn trains were not running, the intrepid duo ran along some elevated train tracks, put a ladder up against an upper-level window and smashed the glass case in which the coin was housed. In a scene reminiscent of the bad old days of the Weimar Republic, they loaded the coin in a wheelbarrow, wheeling it back across the ladder and down the railway tracks, before making their escape using a rope to get down from the tracks and jumping into the waiting Merc.

Police found a deep gouge near the train tracks which suggests that the thieves dropped and, probably, damaged their haul. The coin many now resemble our new twelve-sided pound coin, the first of which I received in my change yesterday.

Clearly questions are being asked about the adequacy of security at the museum and there are suspicions that it may have been an inside job but whether they get away with it or not, it was a story that warmed the cockles of my heart.

I have it on good authority that the woman in the picture is not a suspect.

Bull Of The Week

Not being a fan of bull fighting, I always raise my montera when I hear of a bull getting its own back. A bull in Mexico City called Caporal certainly got its revenge and I’m sure it was sweet, if a  story I came across last week is true.

Matador, Antonio Romero, was in the ring with the bull, doing his stuff, annoying the hell out of the beast and trying to get it to turn around. Caporal decided enough was enough, caught the matador on the arm, knocking him off balance and proceeded to ram one of his eleven inch horns up Romero’s fundament. According to medics, the horn destroyed Romero’s anal sphincter and very seriously damaged his rectum.

Romero was rescued and is recovering in hospital. There is no truth in the rumour that he is considering giving up being a matador because he finds it a pain in the arse.

As for Caporal, he lives to fight another day.

Comma Of The Week

For grammarians, and literary pedants, the Oxford comma represents a bit of a battle ground. It is a comma which is the last in a series of two or more items and usually precedes a conjunction like and or or. I prefer to use it only where there is the potential for some ambiguity in the sentence but some sprinkle it around like confetti. The classic example is the title of Lynne Truss’ 2003 bestseller, Eats shoots and leaves. The addition of a comma before and transforms the meaning of the sentence.

All very academic, you may say, but the want of an Oxford comma has just scooped 75 drivers in Maine back-dated overtime time payments worth some $10m. The drivers of Oakhurst Dairy claimed that their job, delivering dairy products, was not one of those functions excluded under Maine’s overtime law which prohibits the payment of overtime for employees engaged in “the canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of perishable goods”.

The Appeal court ruled that because there wasn’t a comma after packing, it meant that packing and distributing were not separate activities and what was being excluded by the law was the single activity of packing.

A moot point, for sure, but one that has brought good fortune to the drivers who, doubtless, have toasted the continuing health of the Oxford comma.