After a career spanning fifty years, professional road marker Lionel Dawber has finally been promoted to painting double yellow lines. "I've spent most of my working life painting single yellow lines, so this is a real honour," said Mr Dawber. "Now that I'm on the double yellows it's twice the responsibility and twice the job satisfaction."
Unfortunately the promotion doesn't also mean twice the pay, but Mr Dawber is not disheartened. After all, the council has given him a new brush and he's delighted that his skill and expertise have finally been recognised after all this time.
"People think that my job is all about painting straight lines," Mr Dawber told us. "But they couldn't be more wrong. Sometimes I have to go around corners as well, and that's the tricky bit, see. The knack is you need to know when to paint the lines straight and when to paint 'em bent. And that's where my years of experience come in."
Mr Dawber retires next month.
The only time I've ever been stung by an insect was when I trod on a bee in bare feet. By which I mean, of course, that I was in bare feet, not the bee. Although, obviously, the bee was in bare feet as well. It's not like you're going to find a bee wearing football boots, or something, is it? Bit of an expensive footwear option, anyway, I would have thought. Six feet, you see, so you'd need three pairs. I wouldn't imagine there would be many places that cater for bees, in any case. I should think if you went into your local shoe shop and asked them if they had anything for a six-foot bee, you'd end up very disappointed. I mean a bee with six feet, not a bee that is six foot high, or anything like that. I suppose that if you turned up with a bee that large they'd see you coming and lock the doors. If would be no good you hammering on the glass and shouting 'This is Colin. Have you got three pairs of sandals in a size nine?'
Anyway, back to this bee. Or was it a wasp? Certainly, it seemed quite waspish. I don't mean that it was waspish in the sense that it was making cutting and cruel remarks. I didn't actually strike up a conversation with it. Don't go imagining that there was some sort of altercation that escalated to the point where the wasp finally flipped and vented its anger by stinging me. That didn't happen. No, I merely mean that it was waspish in the sense that it was, etymologically speaking, a wasp. Or do I mean entomologically? Both, I suppose.
Look, I think that a blanket assumption that all wasps are waspish (apt to make sharp, cruel remarks) solely by virtue of being waspish (like a wasp) is waspcist (prejudiced against wasps). Perhaps we can just agree on that.
Anyway, that's my bee story. Makes you think, doesn't it?
NEXT WEEK: The Spider, but I might stray onto the subject of umbrellas.
Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2021
When the producers of the James Bond movies were looking to refresh the franchise in 2005 they wanted a grittier, more realistic portrayal of the secret agent. "We very much thought it was time for a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is Bond," said Chief Executive Associate Chief Producer Godfrey Cabbage. "That's very much what we wanted. And after considering a number of options, we very much decided that he should be a Yorkshireman."
Of course, Ian Fleming didn't make Bond a Yorkshireman in his original novels, but then he didn't give him an invisible car and fire him into space either, so there is a precedent for the film series taking liberties with the character. In fact, the decision was very much a reaction to some of the comic-book excesses of earlier movies, as Head Chief Top Associate Managing Executive Producer Godfrey Cabbage explains.
"It was the case, we very much thought, that modern audiences did not want to see the hero infiltrating an enemy stronghold disguised as a crocodile or spazzing around Venice in a hovercraft gondola. A Yorkshire Bond, we very much felt, would not allow himself to get involved in anything so absurd. Ask him to escape down a snow-capped mountain on a cello case and he'd waste no time in telling you where to get off."
However, there were clearly problems with the initial versions of the screenplay. Although the characterisation of Bond's new persona was certainly authentic, there were concerns that it was a little rough around the edges, as this early draft shows.
In the hope of developing a more sophisticated version of Bond, producers turned to Alan Bennett. Hailing from Yorkshire himself, it was felt that Bennett's mastery of idiom and dialogue would provide the franchise with a fully-rounded and believable character.
However, some of Bennett's ideas were questionable. For example, he was keen on creating a new villain, more rooted in real life. Bond's nemesis was to have been called Trevor Hardcastle and would have been the senior revenues officer for Calderdale Borough Council. The following excerpt is from the film's epic denouement, in which Bond finally stands face to face with his archenemy.
Bennett was confident that Mr Hardcastle could have been a recurring character, and even thought there was potential for him to have a spin off movie of his own. But although there were many things that producers liked about Bennett's take on the franchise, they ultimately decided that something was missing. "We very much agreed that the lack of car chases, stunt sequences and explosions left too great a vacuum," said Associate Head Executive Overlord Chief Executive Producer Executive Godfrey Cabbage. "We thought that the sequence where Bond gets off the bus at the wrong stop was wonderfully tense, very much so, but it wasn't enough to sustain audience interest for the duration of the movie."
What the film needed was a script that delivered blistering, fast-moving action sequences, and it became clear that there was only one man for the job. For thirty years the BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine had delighted audiences with high-octane thrills and spills as it followed the adventures of three senile old men wandering around the hills and valleys of Yorkshire. Who can forget the classic 'Compo Careers Down a Hill on Tea Tray' episode, the thrilling 'Compo Careers Down a Hill in a Wheelbarrow', or the harrowing 'Nora Batty Gets Shot While Trying to Infiltrate a Secret Underground Missile Installation'.
Writer Roy Clarke was an obvious choice for the job, and he didn't disappoint. He turned in a script in which James Bond and his fellow spies, Foggy and Clegg, convert an old ice cream van into a submarine in order to penetrate a secret SPECTRE base at the bottom of Ogden Reservoir. They destroy it using plastic explosive hidden in Bond's wellies, then escape by surfing to the shore on bits of the wreckage.
Not only was the script replete with action sequences, it also managed the very difficult balancing act of grounding the film in day-to-day life. Take for example this scene, in which several of the spies' wives gather in Mrs Bond's kitchen for a coffee and a natter.
With the major obstacles overcome, the film was set to go into production. The movie had a working title, There's Nowt So Dead as Folk, Sean Bean had been cast as the new Bond and the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band were going to do the theme tune. Why the project didn't go ahead is not entirely clear, although it's thought that producers got cold feet.
"We very much feared that the whole movie might turn out to be a bit crap," intimated Top Whack Chief Executive Head Honcho Producer Godfrey Cabbage. So, There's Nowt So Dead as Folk, was shelved and we ended up with Casino Royale instead, although we can at least be grateful that the studio retained the scene where Daniel Craig escapes from Le Chiffre by careering down a hill in a bathtub.
Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2021
Why is it that we choose our politicians based on the values and principles that they espouse, rather than on the experience and abilities that they can demonstrate? You wouldn't trust a surgeon to remove your spleen because they really believed that they could do it, even though they'd never held a scalpel. You wouldn't trust an airline pilot who fervently, passionately believed that they could get you to your destination without flying into the side of a mountain, even though they had never sat in a cockpit. What would happen if we hired people to do every job using the same criteria that we use to select the people who govern us?
We find ourselves in a beige meeting room where Mr Wheeler, the depot manager, and Mr Tapper, from HR, are interviewing candidates for the position of train driver. Already this morning they've sat through fifteen carefully rehearsed recitations about having to act under pressure, and an equal number of monologues dealing with what the applicants felt were their greatest weaknesses. Still, Mr Tapper remains upbeat and irritatingly perky. Mr Wheeler, on the other hand, couldn't be any glummer.
Thankfully the final candidate is about to enter. This is him now, knocking at the door. It is Sir Malcolm Buffer, formerly the MP for Bassett South, and one time Minister for Transport.
Please come in and take a seat. Let me see now... it's Malcolm, isn't it? Sorry, Sir Malcolm.
Yes, yes, that's correct.
Well thank you for coming to see us today. My name is Mr Tapper, I'm head of HR. This gentleman is Mr Wheeler. If you are successful today, Mr Wheeler will be your line manager. This is just an informal chat so that we can get to know you. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Certainly, yes. Well, as far as my education goes, I attended Eton, then Cambridge where I studied political science. Worked for my uncle in the city - investments, naturally - but always felt the need to serve my country in some way. Was elected to Parliament, where I served this constituency for twelve years, six of them as a member of the cabinet.
This is really most impressive. I have your CV here and your list of achievements is remarkable, wouldn't you agree, Mr Wheeler?
Mr Wheeler is silent, looking glum and unimpressed.
Well, Sir Malcolm, I expect you want to know a little more about the job. There are a number of aspects to the role, but primarily what we are looking for is someone to drive the mainline commuter express, Monday to Friday including a reduced service on Bank Holidays. So tell me, what first attracted you to the role of train driver?
Oh, I have always been very interested in trains. In fact, I think I went on one once, when I was younger. Trains are the long ones that run on rails, yes? Yes, thought so. Always loved trains, so when I left politics earlier this year, a career as a train driver seemed to be a natural choice.
Excellent, really excellent.
Tapper smiles at Wheeler. Wheeler scowls and leans forward to ask a question.
Right. So, can you give us some idea of what experience you have had driving locomotives?
That is an excellent question. Really excellent. I do believe that experience is essential, and that is something I always tried to stress during my time in government. However, it's important to realise that it's not the only consideration. There is no substitute for passion and enthusiasm. These are the qualities that I brought to my parliamentary career, and I am now very keen to put these same qualities at your disposal.
That's marvellous to hear, Sir Malcolm. Really marvellous.
Yes. But, returning to my question, what experience of train driving do you have?
I think the real question here is do I really believe in trains?
No it isn't. It's what experience of train driving do you have?
And the answer is yes, I really do passionately believe in trains. Not only are they an important factor is this country's history, but they will be a vital and, dare I say it, exciting part of its future.
I have to say, Sir Malcom, it is refreshing to hear someone speaking like this in this day and age.
Sir Malcolm, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that you've never driven a train. Would I be right in that assumption?
Well, of course, you're free to draw whatever inference you see fit, and I respect your opinion. However, what I will say is this: sometimes we need to break away from tradition and adopt a new approach. It's all very well hiring a train driver to drive a train, but there are times when we need to cast the net a little wider. There is always a place for fresh blood and new ideas. I believe this is what I represent. I believe - I strongly believe - that in order to ensure that the railway industry thrives, we need to take trains in a new direction.
As opposed to the direction determined by the track?
Well, Sir Malcolm, you've certainly given us a great deal to think about. Thank you very much for coming; we'll be in touch in due course.
Sir Malcolm leaves and Tapper shuffles through the application forms in front of him.
Well, I don't think there's any doubt about who is the best candidate for the job.
Oh yes, Sir Malcolm is our man, all right.
You don't agree? I think he has all the qualities we are looking for.
He's never driven a train. He probably doesn't even know which end is which. Now, that bloke we saw second, what was his name? Here we go, Harry Ballast - he's been a train driver for thirty years. Incredibly experienced, blemish-free work record, excellent references.
But no passion. The man had no enthusiasm. Yes, I dare say he could drive a train but he doesn't inspire confidence. Sir Malcolm, on the other hand, really believes in trains. I trust him. I think he's good for trains and I'm happy for the future of our trains to be in his hands.
I disagree. I've worked in this industry all my life. I started out as a train driver, I've managed train drivers and I'm responsible for every train that goes out of my depot, and in my experience - which is considerable - I think the best person for the job of a train driver is someone who knows how to drive a train.
Yes, well I went to Cambridge and I'm head of HR, and ultimately it's my decision. Sir Malcolm is the man for us; Sir Malcolm gets the job. Right, if we're done here I need to make a move. I'm seeing the Duke of Cumberland this afternoon about an exciting new role in the staff canteen. I think we might just have found our Head of Sausages.
Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2021
Anyone visiting the small and relatively obscure settlement of Little Mungford is in for a treat. The village boasts many attractions and wonders, including a theme park, museum, waxworks, medieval castle, the Eifel Tower, a valley of pyramids with two sphinxes and the Taj Mahal. Or at least is does according to the village's official website. Intrigued, we found the contact details for Little Mungford's chief tourism officer, Ian Balls, and decided to pay him a visit.
Mr Balls lives in a bungalow at the edge of the village and, if the signs displayed at his property and on the various vehicles parked outside are accurate, his main business is skip hire. He is a man in his fifties, impressively well-balanced for a gentleman of his excessive size. The top of his head is an arid plain on which little has grown for the past twenty years, but he compensates for this with a grey ponytail and a long goatee, this latter feature dripping with gravy as he opens his front door to us. He is part way through devouring a sausage speared on a fork clutched tightly in his pudgy hand, but he is no less welcoming for having his dinner interrupted. In fact, he generously offers us a nibble, which we politely decline.
"There's big money in skips," he tells us as he urges us to take a seat and hands us a beer. He resumes his dinner, but is talented enough to continue speaking whilst simultaneously pushing chips into his face. "Although, a lot of people in the village didn't really approve," he dribbles. "They thought my line of business lowered the tone. They also didn't really like me very much - I wasn't their type, you see. A self-made man, me, not one of those snooty Oxbridge commuter-belt types. So, anyway, I had quite a bit of money to invest so I started buying up property and moving them all out. That's when I hit upon my idea."
Mr Balls' big scheme was to turn Little Mungford into a major tourist attraction. The village, we gather, already had a number of natural features and structures of historical interest to recommend it. Mr Balls invested in a programme of restoration and improvement. He also sought to expand the appeal of the village by purchasing new attractions from around the world, including, as we mentioned earlier, the Taj Mahal. This puzzles us since, as far as we are aware, the Taj Mahal is still in India.
"Well it wasn't easy," Mr Balls acknowledges as he ploughs through a steak and kidney pie like a ripsaw slicing through a tree trunk. "But I know a bloke. If you've got the right contacts and you're prepared to bung 'em a few quid, you can get pretty much anything you want. The one in India is just a copy made out of plasterboard and chicken wire. We've got the real thing here."
He wipes his grease-stained fingers on the tablecloth, reaches into his back pocket and hands us a small damp square of paper. We unfold it gingerly and find it is an illustrated brochure and map of the village, showing the many and varied attractions on offer.
"You can have that. For free," he says with a wink.
"Thanks," we reply with a reasonably convincing show of gratitude. "It says here," we say, after studying it for a moment, "that we can visit the Grand Canyon on the edge of the village."
"A Grand Canyon, not the Grand Canyon," Mr Balls corrects us. He rises and goes to the kitchen, returning moments later with a loaf of bread and a large tub of what appears to be lard. "I did express an interest in the original but moving a canyon presents certain logistical problems. Luckily, Little Mungford already had a canyon of its own."
We express surprise at this. Mr Balls acknowledges our reaction as he tears off a chunk of bread, dips it into the lard and explains.
"Well, I say 'canyon' but then one man's canyon is very much another man's trench. Anyhow, after a couple of day's work with a JCB, I reckon we've got a chasm that can rival anything you're likely to see in Arizona."
There is a sharp rap at the front door and Mr Balls springs to his feet. There is a gleam in his eye that looks very much like lust and the way that his tongue is hanging out is disturbing. "That must be the curry that I ordered," he drools. "Listen, it looks like I may be busy for some time. Why don't you take that map and go and look around the place for yourselves. I guarantee you won't be disappointed."
This seeming like an excellent idea, we leave Mr Balls to deal with his curry - and the four other takeaway deliveries that are standing in line at his front door - and proceed to the centre of the village, where the map tells us that we will find the Eifel Tower. Presumably the one in Paris is just a crude facsimile made out of pipe cleaners and Blu Tack. We can find no trace of it, which is a puzzle since our understanding is that it is really quite big and difficult to miss.
In search of answers, we step into a nearby pub. The place is empty and the bar is unattended. We rap politely on the counter and in response to our call the barman springs forth. To our surprise, he is immediately familiar.
"Who sir? Me sir? No sir, my name is Jenkins," says the barman. "Sidney Jenkins. Although one or two people have noted that I do seem to share a slight resemblance with Mr Balls."
More than slight, we'd say: the ponytail, the goatee, the sausage roll held securely in his fist, even the fact that his girth means that he is wedged so tightly behind the bar that he is unable to turn round - it all seems to point to Mr Balls. However, we take 'Mr Jenkins' at his word and ask him where the Eifel Tower has got to.
"The Tower sir? Why, it hasn't gone anywhere, sir. There it is sir." He points out of the window. We tell him we can see no sign of it, but he insists and suddenly it dawns on us that he is indicating an electricity pylon. Clearly he's very proud of the structure and we don't want to upset him, so we humour him, 'ooh-ing' and 'ahh-ing' appreciatively.
Aware that time is pressing, we study the map and decide our next visit will be to Great Mungford Falls, which - according to the description we have been given - 'cascade majestically into the sparkling azure pool of Mungford Water'. We check our directions with the barman and, this being nearly lunchtime, our thoughts turn to whether we can get some food to take with us. Sandwiches, perhaps?
"Oh yes, sir. Of course, sir," says the barman. "We do sandwiches, sir. What kind of sandwiches did you have in mind?"
"Ham?" we venture.
"All out of ham sir," the barman says. "But I'm sure we can find something for you?"
"Cheese, maybe?" we ask. "Tuna fish? Beef?"
"Sorry sir, all out?" says the barman. "If only you'd been here earlier."
"How about pork, or even... "
"Actually, I've just remembered, we're all out of sandwiches," the barman says. "All gone. Yum yum."
"A sausage roll, then? Or a pasty?"
"No pasties, sir," says the barman. "And I've just eaten the last of the sausage rolls. I've got a packet of salt and vinegar crisps."
"Well that will have to do," we tell him.
The barman opens the packet, tips the contents down his throat, scrunches up the bag and throws it over his shoulder. "Sorry sir, all gone."
We tell him not to worry. He isn't worried. He thanks us for our custom, such as it was, and we depart on our way to the Great Falls. The path takes us round the back of a row of semi-detached houses, across some scrubland littered with builders' rubble and though a scraggy copse of rotting trees. Where Mungford Water ought to be, there is a muddy pond surrounded by rusted barbed wire, on which there floats a solitary duck that fixes us with one evil eye and issues a single, contemptuous quack.
There is a fellow lying on the bank with his hat over his eyes, and from the noises he's making he's either snoring or having an asthma attack. We attract his attention and he lazily removes the hat and props himself up on his elbows, revealing himself to be either Mr Balls or somebody else who looks remarkably like him. The noise we had heard had been the sound of him gnawing on a chicken leg.
"How do, my dearies," he says, spitting out a lump of gristle.
"Sorry to disturb you, Mr... Balls?"
"Ah, now then, many folk makes that there mistake, my dearies," he responds. "People do tell as I look remarkably like that there Mr Balls. I couldn't rightly tell you whether they is right or wrong about that, but what I can say is that my name is Isaac Wurzel, so it is."
"Please beg our pardon," we entreat him. "Well, Mr Wurzel, we were - "
"Yes, I is a Wurzel, just like my pa was a Wurzel, and his pa before him, right back to Gascoigne de Wurzel, who came over with William the Conqueror - although people do say as how that was a mistake, and that he only got on the boat because he thought it was a day trip to Boulogne."
"Ah, right. Well, we came to see - "
"Of course, I be a Wurzel on my pa's side. T'other side of my family are Murgatroyds. You ever heard of the Lincolnshire, Murgatroyds? No, neither have I, I don't know why I brought them up. Now, the Murgatroyds was once very big in beetroots. There was a time, not so very long ago, my dearies, when t'other side of the hill was all beetroots right down to the river. Course, it's a shopping centre now. You can get all sorts of stuff there: televisions, carpets, picture frames, packets of fruit gums... You can probably get beetroot, as well. You wanted to ask me something, dearies?"
He suddenly falls silent and it takes us by surprise. We quickly gather our wits and ask him where we can find Mungford Water. We'd found it, he tells us. And the Great Mungford Falls? He points to a trickle of rusty brown water dribbling from a pipe, and we realise with a sigh that we should have expected something like that.
"Course, what you should really be interested in is the monster!" he informs us in a hushed voice. Monster, we ask? "Oh yes, my dearies," he continues. "It lives in the deep dark depths, rising to the surface only occasionally. They've had all sorts of scientific people here, hunting for it, but it's eluded them, so it has. They reckon as how it's some ancient prehistoric beastie."
He suddenly jumps up and points excitedly. "Look! Look! There it is! You're in luck - few people have ever seen it. See how it rises majestically from the waters, the spray cascading from it scaly back, before it crashes back into the foam, and dives down, down, down into the obsidian blackness of its underwater lair."
He is pointing at the duck. We leave him to it. Consulting the map once more we set off to find the Taj Mahal. Mr Balls had assured us that it was the real thing. We didn't believe this for a moment, but we hoped at least that he'd made an effort. We discover that the building is surrounded by a high fence and that we have to pay a small charge for entry. Fumbling in our pockets for change, we approach the ticket booth and find it occupied by a large middle-aged woman with platinum blond hair, long gaudily-coloured earrings and plastered in so much makeup that it appears to form some sort of protective shell. 'She' also has a long goatee beard, is struggling gamely to chomp her way through a giant Toblerone and is clearly Mr Balls in drag.
"I'm not Mr Balls," is the first thing she says to us.
"We never said you were," we reply wearily.
"My name is Patty Grinder, and I'll have you know I'm a respectable woman, so none of your coarse language and nonsense."
We have no idea what nonsense she is referring to and we haven't used any coarse language - although by now our patience is wearing thin and there is every chance that we might let rip at any second. We hold our tongues long enough to purchase our tickets, and are told that they also allow us entry to see the Giant Monkey. We start to ask about the Giant Monkey, realise that there is probably no percentage in it, and silently pass through the turnstile.
The Taj Mahal turns out to be a shed. An actual shed. They haven't even bothered painting it. We turn around, walk straight out and keep going until we reach our car. It's time to call it a day, but Little Mungford does have a final treat for us. On the way out of the village we pass a sign for the Giant Monkey, and since we have the tickets we decide to stop off and have a look. And we're glad that we have, since the Giant Monkey is a twenty-foot high animatronic gorilla that dances whilst performing a surprisingly emotional version of Elvis Presley's 'All Shook Up'. It is easily the most impressive thing we've seen all day and for this reason and this reason only we heartily recommend that you consider paying Little Mungford a visit.
Taken from The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2021
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of the Bleeding Obvious
All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2021, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All characters, companies and organisations are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
This 70-page PDF is packed full of silly stuff you won't find anywhere else.