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17 August 2016

Dash for Glory

Henry Dash is a very special kind of athlete. His training routine is rigorous, unrelenting and demands the dedication and resolve to spend at least fourteen hours a day lounging on a sofa in front of the TV, sliding pizza down his fat neck. Not for Henry the hard toil and sweat of a punishing exercise regime; this couch competitor has developed a whole new approach that steadfastly avoids any physical effort.

"Bollocks to that," he told us. "You won't catch me trussed up in Lycra, shambolically wheezing my way through the local park, disturbing the atmosphere and scaring the ducks. I've watched enough sport to know that the one thing common to all great athletes is 'mental strength'. They all go on about it. At first I simply dismissed it - most sports people are not bright enough to realise that 'mental strength' is not actually a thing, just some hippy bullshit that their trainer tells them about to get them out of bed in the morning.

"I mean, if they were academically blessed they wouldn't have to run up and down and chuck things around and stuff. The only ones I've got any real respect for is the darts players, because at least they can add up. Although, that's not really a sport, is it? That's just a night out.

"But then, when you think about all the medals that these people keep winning, you start to wonder whether there might not be something to it. So that's why I figured I'd give it a go. Right now I'm in training for the next Olympics."

Henry is currently concentrating on improving his mental strength and has very nearly eliminated any kind of physical activity from his life. He has all his meals brought to him and there is someone on hand to regularly flannel him down and 'manage' his sanitary needs. It's not the case that he never breaks a sweat - in fact he's quite clammy most of the time and sometimes reaching for the TV remote can make him dizzy. And, as he admits himself, his mental exercises are often exhausting.

"Today I've been visualising crossing the winning line and I'm bloody knackered," he said. "Tomorrow I'm going to be thinking hard about being presented with a complementary bottle of champagne after the race, and to be honest I'm really not looking forward to it at all."

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12 August 2016
Professor Ricky Stratocaster's History of Rock

Carly Simon

 

Carly Simon

One of the most enduring mysteries in the history of music surrounds Carly Simon's You're So Vain. Since its release in 1972, Simon has been teasing us over the identity of the subject of the song, despite the fact that absolutely no one cares. After many years spent dropping increasingly unsubtle hints to an indifferent media, Simon finally revealed that the song was about Warren Mitchell, the celebrated British comedy actor who gained much acclaim for playing Alf Ramsey in the much loved sitcom Death on the Nile.

But this was not to be the end of the story. Realising that she could still milk it for publicity, Simon qualified her statement, claiming that only one verse concerned Mitchell, the rest being about an ever growing congregation of people who had managed to get on the wrong side of her. In recent years she has continued to scatter clues in the manner of a hysterical drunk hurling breadcrumbs at ducks, revealing that the song contains references to, amongst others, Mick Jagger, David Geffen, Telly Savalas, Sir John Gielgud, Keith Harris (and possibly Orville), Pat Sharp, some bloke who came round to clean out her gutters, an anonymous gentleman who once accidentally brushed against her in a hotel foyer and Hercule Poirot - who, despite being entirely fictional, still managed to piss her off for some as yet unexplained reason.

In fact, the only part of the song about which any mystery remains is the third word of the second line of the final verse. For those of you who don't yet know the piece by heart, that word is 'horse'. Simon has said that she will finally reveal the identity of the inspiration for this word next month, and while most of the planet has remained steadfastly blasé regarding the forthcoming disclosure there was, reportedly, much consternation down in the paddock at this year's Kentucky Derby.

 

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11 August 2016

Petition lights touch paper for Doncaster Space Programme

Space Cadets and Lunarphiles in Doncaster were delighted this week to learn that an online petition to get Doncaster Borough Council to put a man on the moon is nearing its target.

Local man Christian Pyle launched his petition three months ago and thanks to astronomical interest on social media he now has five and a half thousand signatures and is rocketing towards the six thousand mark.

Asked why he wants the council to take this giant step for Doncaster, Christian said: "It would be great to do something positive for the town for a change. This area is becoming really depressed: businesses are closing, local amenities are falling into disrepair and people generally seem to think that the future for Doncaster is pretty bleak. A properly funded space programme will provide a much needed boost for the local economy and be a source of civic pride."

Inevitably Christian has been inundated with potential volunteers for the moon-shot, all eager to leave the dismal environs of Doncaster behind them and experience somewhere with even less atmosphere. But Christian already knows the man with the right stuff.

"My mate Tony reckons he's up for it," he told us. "He's really bored at the pickle factory at the moment and says that he wants to strike out in a new direction. Also, when we were at school he was always doodling spaceships during the maths lesson, so actually he's halfway to being qualified."

Surprisingly, Doncaster Borough Council seems to be taking the proposal seriously, even though no one seems confident that the idea will get off the launch pad. "We don't really have the facilities for this at the moment," said Councillor Ronnie Backhander. "Budget restrictions have meant that we've had to make some severe cuts. Last month we had to let half the street cleaning staff go, which hit us pretty hard, so managing a successful blast off is a big ask. Still, we've got Mary in the Planning Department looking into it and we're expecting to hear from her by Tuesday."

In the meantime, Doncaster Borough Council remains fully committed to its ongoing project to tunnel to the Earth's core. So far they have a hole nearly three and a half feet deep. Following an injection of cash from a corporate sponsor they now intend to invest in another shovel and hope to reach the upper mantle by next June.

Rocket!

The Doncaster Rocket (concept artwork)

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07 August 2016

Night of the Womble

Womble

During her lifetime Elizabeth Beresford wrote some of the most beloved children's books of all time, but like many authors she also left a number of unfinished and unpublished works when she passed away. Amongst them was Night of the Womble, another instalment in the saga of the loveable inhabitants of Wimbledon Common. Now, finally, Womble fans can look forward to its imminent publication.

They may, however, be in for a bit of a shock. Unlike other books in the series, Night of the Womble has a very different tone. Believed to have been written around 1972-1973, the book tells a story of fear, mistrust and exploitation, in which Wombles across the land are rounded up, shackled and put into slavery by their human overlords. It's a harsh and nightmarish vision of the not-so-distant future, made all the more chilling as it could so easily become a reality.

During the course of the story Great Uncle Bulgaria is torn apart by a pack of dogs, Bungo is hanged following a failed uprising, Tobermory is executed by firing squad on a trumped-up charge of making good use of the things that he finds and Madame Cholet is sold to a brothel where she is forced to become a Sex Womble.

The ending of the book is depressingly downbeat, closing with scenes of sick and malnourished Wombles being dragged from their burrows and marched across the frozen wastes of Wimbledon Common to an uncertain and hopeless future. However, the trustees of Beresford's estate discovered notes for a sequel which planned to reverse the fate of the enslaved creatures. Rise of the Wombles would have been the story of the Womble uprising, depicting a vicious and bloody struggle from which our furry heroes ultimately win their freedom.

It's not known exactly why these books never saw the light of day, although it's easy to see why Beresford's publishers would have been uneasy about her taking the series in a new direction. It's probably the very same reason why we never got to read her take on the spy novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Womble, the horrifying Zombie Womble, or the erotic romance Fifty Shades of Orinoco.

Night of the Womble
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06 August 2016

Paper Cut

phone

Hello, you're through to Mike, can I help you? Good grief, that's extraordinary! Yes, yes, why yes - I have had an accident at work. Just a few moments ago, in fact. How could you possibly have known? And yes, it wasn't my fault. Why this is really quite remarkable! By what I can only assume is some form of preternatural sense you have somehow managed to contact the very person who needs your services the most. I can only gasp in wonderment at this awesome incidence of universe-shaking serendipity.

Yes, I can tell you exactly what happened and I shall endeavour to leave no detail unaccounted for. I was sitting at my desk - this very desk at which I am sitting right now - when I reached out for a chocolate bourbon, a variety of biscuit of which I am inordinately fond. In the flurry of my hectic activities thus far this working day, some papers had become disordered and it was necessary to move one dangerously sharp sheet aside in order to retrieve my crunchy treat. This I did, and for my trouble I received a small but significant cut to my finger.

That's right, a paper cut. I fear I may need to take the rest of the day off and already I am beginning to feel weak, but I realised that my first priority was to seek immediate financial redress and so I set about the task of telephoning a suitable legal professional to champion my cause. Unfortunately I had sustained the injury to my dialling finger and was just wondering how I might circumvent this difficulty when you called and, amazingly, solved my dilemma for me. Now then, I am looking for £20,000 to compensate me for the mental anguish, but I should point out that a small child could very easily have been injured and this, I should imagine, must be worth at least an additional £5K.

It should also be noted that there were no warning signs in the vicinity. Well, actually that's not strictly true. The piece of paper that caused me this hideous and debilitating wound was in fact a notice cautioning against just such an eventuality - oh the irony - but since the message was printed on the reverse I was unable to heed it until the damage had already been done. Life is indeed cruel and the pitfalls we face on the journey from cradle to crave are many. So, do you think I have a case?

Well, this is good to hear, but I remain in some apprehension about the course of action which will now ensue. I imagine that you will want to send me some documents - terms and conditions, contracts to sign and the like? I thought as much. You strike me as a very thorough, capable and efficient person and it is only to be expected that you would pursue your duties with the appropriate degree of rigour.

Unfortunately, I fear this approach to the matter is likely to become problematic, as ever since my recent yet potentially life-changing accident I find that I have a mortal fear of paper. The merest thought of it brings me out in a rash and I doubt very much that I will ever again experience the joy of handling a crisp new letter or a warm, freshly photocopied form. I would forever be thinking of the consequences. Today I have suffered a small cut to the finger; tomorrow I could lose an arm or a leg. What would happen if the very paperwork you send me should be the cause of such an accident? You would have blood on your hands - as indeed would I.

No, I believe that it would be too much of a risk and I think, on balance, we had better forget the whole thing. I have a particularly lethal envelope to deal with this afternoon and I really need to keep my wits about me. But please do feel free to call again. There was a man eyeing me up earlier who looks like he might want to sell me an unwanted PPI policy, so there is every chance that I may need your help in future. Goodbye.

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The History of Rock

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Snakes

Boy Scouts around the country are in for a treat this month as Hissing Sid's Russian Snake Circus embarks on an extensive tour of the country. The highly trained contortionist snake troupe are famous the world over for their legendary displays of knot-tying, and it promises to be an excellent show.

Noblock and Kerfanderbuck

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Kicking and Screaming

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The Bleeding Obvious

Exploding Dogs

Baby's First Swear

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