Thursday, 26 September 2013

No Virgin in Haworth!

Mobile moments of madness

There have been moments recently when I have been sorely tempted to launch my mobile telephone into orbit, pre-programmed to crash to earth on Richard Branson’s head.
Since the beginning of the year my signal from the Virgin network had been gradually worsening often to the point where using a carrier pigeon would have been more effective. Of course the first line of defence for all mobile phone companies are the foreign call centres where everyone is called Godfrey or Marion and you know they’ve never been called that in their life. They’re irritatingly polite and heavily scripted on how to deal with awkward customers going ballistic down the phone and threatening to do all manner of unspeakable things.
“Oh we’re very sorry for the inconvenience Mr Graham,” trilled one after 45 minutes on the helpline which was the cut off, probably because a passing pigeon had blocked the one bar of signal which I was using. They want you to give in and go away don’t they?
“Oh we’ll be giving you another 3,000 texts as compensation Mr Graham, isn’t that wonderful?”
No! I want to speak to someone not write everything in text, I replied, quietly steaming and thinking of what I’d like to do with the operator’s headset.
Many calls later I was allowed permission to speak to the technical department and, amazingly, I actually understood what he was saying. Virgin had decommissioned a mast close to our area and the signal was weakened because of it and there were no plans to recommission it in the future. Oh nice, I live high on the Yorkshire moors and would have thought there was plenty of room for a new mast, but no, said the technical man. I was put through to the public relations department and a very polite chap confirmed that my signal would not improve and I was free to leave Virgin without penalty!
I was in a quandary about who to go to for service, or should I revert back to the two syrup tins and a length of string which had been so effective in my youth? And cheaper. I settled for Talk Talk but for three days that was precisely what I couldn’t do, talk, until numbers had been ported, sims transferred and I had to threaten to separate at least three help line operators from their important bits.
My wife opted for a package with one of those tablet come Kindly wotsit gadgets. It’s amazing the stuff they have now, even a phone that reacts when you look at it. I’m hanging on until they have one which soothes you when you can’t make a phone call, brews tea and makes a bacon sandwich. Sorry, just having another moment of mobile madness!

Tyred of wasted money

It seems to me that an incredible amount of money is wasted on rather useless items, many in the name of education.
Our local school has just unveiled a “tyre park” which has cost a staggering £10,000. Now how many swimming lessons or creative activities could that money have bought instead of dumping a pile of old painted tyres for pupils to clamber across?
In my schooldays we were quite happy with a playground area where we fashioned wickets from a dustbin, chalked goalposts on the wall and if anyone had dumped a load of old tyres there we’d have thrown them out. Progress?

Stuffed mice keep embalmer happy!

I have serious worries about the lady embalmer who stuffs dead mice and dresses them up for a hobby.
I didn’t know there was a “Master Chef” award for embalming but Liz Davis was named Britain’s Embalmer of the Year at The Good Funeral Guide award ceremony. Goodness knows who the celebrity judges were but they’d have a stiff task before them.
For fun Liz’s hobby is stuffing dead animals, dressing them up and selling them on the Internet. Apparently it takes about an hour and a half to stuff a mouse and get it in position. One of her subjects has been dressed up as Lord Nelson.
You begin to see my cause for concern don’t you? She gets the mice already frozen from the local pet shop. The alternative fate for them would be ending up as a snake’s dinner. The finished articles sell for up to £50 on the Internet.
So if you see someone’s granny stuffed and displayed on eBay you know Liz has had a senior moment!

Earning conservation stripes

A Brazilian family have shown their dedication to saving endangered tigers - by moving seven of them into their home. Bet they don’t need a burglar alarm.
Father of three Ary Borges rescued two tigers from a circus eight years ago and built a sanctuary in his garden.
Now the family live, eat, and even swim with the giant man-eaters in their backyard pool in Maringa, near Sao Paulo.
And shockingly Mr Borges even lets his two-year-old granddaughter, Rayara, ride on the back of the fully-grown big cats.
Mr Borges, 43, said: "I was never worried about my daughters co-existing with these animals
"You have to show the animals respect and love - that's how you get it back from them."
The 43-year-old and his daughters Nayara, 20, Uyara, 23, and Deusanira, 24, walk the tigers on leads and feed meat directly into their mouths.
They even allow them into their kitchen during mealtime and let them lounge around the house.
Incredibly, Uraya, who also works as a dog trainer, is happy for daughter Rayara to interact with the massive predators with minimal safety precautions.
She said: "Rayara loves playing with the tigers - she sees my dad interacting with them and she goes crazy.
"But it's safe. I would never expose her to a dangerous situation.
"Every day since they were born we have taken care of them and fed them so their instincts become dormant.
Oh yeah, and one day they may wake up.
Potty trained pussy!

A West Midlands cat-lover has amazed animal experts by teaching his pet to use a human toilet.
Luke Evans, 29, from Solihull, says he got fed up with his cat Salem using a smelly litter tray in his second floor flat so he trained nine-month-old Salem to go to the toilet in his bathroom by offering cheese-flavoured treats as a reward.
The talented cat can apparently also shake paws and roll over - and is currently being taught to fetch.
Mr Evans, who lives with his partner, said: "A lot of the time we don't even realise that he's been to the loo.
"Sometimes we hear him scratching at the seat but it's only when we step into the bathroom and see the evidence in the toilet that we know for sure.
"He can't use the flush yet - he needs more training for that. It took a couple of months for him to pick it up - we used a child's toilet training seat at first.
"I guess it's a pretty rare thing. I mentioned it at work and everyone was pretty amazed."
Local vet Becki Pratt said: "We see many talented animals here at the clinic but Salem is a cut above the rest.
"We've heard the phrase: 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks', but apparently you can teach a young cat anything - as Salem has proved."
I’d like to see them do the same with the tigers in the previous piece.

Spreading the news

A North Shields man loves Marmite so much that he's changed his surname by deed poll to match the yeast spread.
Saire May - now Marmite - made the leap to show his 'devotion and passion' to the dark brown paste.
"I'm not exactly sure how old I was when I first tried Marmite, but I just remember eating it as far back as I can remember," he said.
"I like the smell, the taste, the texture. I think I pretty much like everything about it."
Mr Marmite, 38, says he easily gets through a jar a week and also collects Marmite paraphernalia including limited edition jars, cufflinks and a recipe book dating back to the Second World War.
"My family think I'm mad. However my mum just shrugged her shoulders, she expects this kind of thing from me," he added.

It’s the sort of silly idea which could spread.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Have a look for my bloody leg

Sixty nine years ago tomorrow (September 25th 1944) a British Army sergeant was walking through the countryside around Venlo in the south eastern Netherlands.
It was no ordinary walk. Led by a Welsh sergeant, the column of soldiers was aware that the surrounding countryside had been mined by the Germans. They were part of the tail end of what was known as Operation Market Garden, a major offensive against Nazi occupied Holland.
The Welsh sergeant stepped on one of the mines and was killed instantly. The British sergeant got the full blast which blew away the lower part of his left leg and peppered his whole body with shrapnel leaving him seriously wounded.
He was rescued from the scene and flown back to a Worcestershire hospital where he spent much of the next few months undergoing treatment, which involved removing a further portion of his leg and painstakingly removing the shrapnel from the entire front of his body and face.
Six months earlier he had married his sweetheart in a tiny church in a Yorkshire mill town where he was born. After a few days in Blackpool on honeymoon he had returned to the bloody heart of the battle against Germany. What happened on that September morning meant the honeymoon was well and truly over.
Eventually, after many months, he returned to the Yorkshire mill town. They sent him an artificial leg by train to the railway station. He had to walk two miles on crutches to pick it up. He put it on in the station waiting room, walked out and for the next 51 years, worked, saved, raised a child, even taught him to play football and cricket, and generally defied what that bloody awful weapon of war had done to him..
He said to his son, "If you ever go to Holland have a look for my bloody leg will you?"
In a few weeks the country will fall silent to remember those who lost their lives in conflict, in fact in many conflicts before and since that awful September morning. I always remember with them and feel fortunate that the name of that British sergeant was not etched in letters upon the memory of this country, unlike his Welsh counterpart and friend.
And Dad, if I do ever go to Holland, I promise to have a look for your bloody leg.