Scene: A television studio in Yorkshire, UK, midway through a live broadcast of the regional news programme Aye Up Yorkshire. The presenter turns to welcome his latest guest...
In the most recent instalment of our feature on fascinating local characters, we welcome to the studio Mr Alfred Clutterthwaite. Mr Clutterthwaite, it's good of you to join us here today.
Aye, 'appen it is... it is.
Now you've lived in the area for -
All me life... me life.
For over seventy years, I believe.
Aye, all me life... me life.
And in that time you've come to be considered a bit of a celebrity, is that right?
'Appen I have... I have.
Often called upon to open fetes, judge local contests and so on.
And all because of this unusual talent that you -
Aye, well I don't reckon as how you'd call it a talent, but it's unusual ah reight... ah reight. See, ever since I was a wee nipper, from the moment I could talk, my voice has had this kind of natural echo... echo.
Extraordinary. And can you give us a demonstration of that now?
Demonstration... stration? What the chuffing hell you on about... on about?
Wow, that's incredible!
I do it all the pigging time... time. Can't turn it off... it off. It's a bastard nuisance... nuisance!
I see, but all the same, I bet it comes in handy.
What the 'ell for... 'ell for? Go on feller, you tell me what use it is, because I've had seventy years to think on it, and I've come up wi' nowt... wi' nowt.
Well, I don't know. I suppose what you're saying is that it's more of a curse than a gift?
Aye, a curse... a curse. And there's bugger all that anyone can do about it... about it.
PRESENTER: Nothing? No medical help? Throat lozenges, or something?
Throat lozenges... lozenges! It's a weird, possibly paranormal, quirk of nature, not a bloody chesty cough, you soft bastard... bastard. I've had all them posh doctors and specialists and folk poking me and prodding me and faffin' about, and not one of the barmpots 'ad a clue... a clue.
Oh, well I'm sorry about that.
Is thee now... thee now? Hark on, lad - I've had years of being treated like a freak an' I'm reight sick on it... on it. T'only reason I come on this 'ere television programme was to put an end to it, once and for all... for all.
I see. Well -
I want no more reporters and television folk and the like mitherin' me and calling me up at all hours, when I'm 'avin' me tea, or readin' paper or summat... summat.
Yes, of course.
I dunna want some local committee meeting draggin' me away from me pigeons so as I can lead the bloody carnival procession... procession. Or the women's guild nagging me to judge their baking competition... petiion.
Well, you have every right -
I'm reight sick of it, and I want everyone to know that I'm done wi' it, as of this 'ere minute... minute.
Of course. Well, thank you for your time this evening, Mr Clutterthwaite. I'm sure we've all got the message, and I don't doubt that everyone will respect your wishes.
Aye, well, good - I'm glad we've got that sorted... sorted.
Champion.... champion. Sithee, then... then. And mind you think on - because I don't want to have to repeat meself... meself... meself... meself.
What do you do when dangerous sunspot activity threatens to blast electromagnetic waves into space, causing havoc for everything from satellite-based global positioning systems and complex computer controlled navigations rigs, to automated power grids, fibre optic communication networks and even household devices like your radio alarm clock or fridge? That's a question that we will soon need to find an answer for, as our sun enters its 'adolescent' phase.
"Most people will be familiar with the notion that stars have a 'lifecycle'," explained Dr Henry Symptom, deputy Head of Buckets at Jodrell Bank. "They age, they mature - very much as people do. When they're born they are noisy, messy and raucous. As they grow older they settle down, become more predictable and spend less time hanging around nightclubs, trying to pick up lady stars. Finally, in their old age they expand into bloated red giants - great, lumbering balls of gas - before collapsing in on themselves to become feeble, dense and casually racist white dwarves."
According to Dr Symptom, our star is about to enter the equivalent of its teenage years. And everyone knows how difficult teenagers can be - prone to unanticipated outbursts and sudden, intense eruptions.
"My niece Britney is just the same," Dr Symptom said. "Always flying off the handle at something or other. I don't know how her parents cope. The spoilt bitch. Anyway, the sun is very much like that. Moreover, like any other teenager, it's about to break out in spots. And I mean lots of spots. Oh, we've seen sunspots before, they're quite normal, but that's nothing compared to what we're about to experience. It will be a zit-astrophe."
Dr Symptom may not be exaggerating. Scientists don't know exactly what effect this increased activity will have upon the earth but there are serious concerns that it could impact many areas of life, such as air travel, weather patterns or even trigger volcanic activity. At the very least it will probably interfere with mobile communications."
"And we can't have that," said Dr Symptom. "My network's bad enough as it is. The only place I can get a signal is in my garage, which is no damn good because I can't hear anything over the noise of the boiler. That's why we need to start working on a solution now, when we can still hear ourselves think. Personally I believe some sort of cosmic acne cream is the answer. It seemed to work for Britney."
There was a time when railway travel was a dreary affair, characterised by surly and badly-trained staff, unexplained delays and worrying episodes of food poisoning twenty-four hours after visiting the buffet car. These days that has all changed - the staff are given intensive instruction in being rude and obnoxious, delays are accompanied by increasingly imaginative excuses and train operators are proud that stomach cramps and bouts of vomiting typically now commence barely minutes after selecting something dodgy from the refreshments trolley.
However, there remains one aspect of rail travel that commuters complain is still stuck in the past, and that is the availability of Wi-Fi. Whilst you can access Wi-Fi on most routes, the bandwidth is often so limited as to make it practically unusable. Is it reasonable to expect better?
Well, yes - it is according to Phillp Traction, operations manager for Western Valley Rail. "Of course our customers have every right to demand better internet services on our trains," he told us. "And this has been something we have been working on for some time. The problem has been that our trains travel too fast for the Wi-Fi signal, meaning that it is only able to catch up when they stop to pick up passengers."
Mr Traction says that his company has tried several methods to boost the signal, but in every case found that the proposed solution was either too messy, too expensive or defied the laws of physics. In the end they hit upon an obvious solution.
"We've slowed the trains down," he said. "Admittedly this has more than doubled the average journey time, but at least our passengers will now be able to stream Youtube clips of people falling over and walking into doors - which we feel, at the end of the day, is probably more important."
Exciting scenes today at the conclusion of the Silver vs Benbow Ferries Ltd case, following a hotly anticipated ruling by the tribunal. Mr Silver, formerly a chef aboard a passenger ferry on the English Channel crossing, had been dismissed by his employer, Benbow Ferries, for being drunk on duty. This, according to Benbow Ferries, amounted to gross misconduct. Mr Silver disagreed and challenged the decision, stating that it was normal custom and practice for sea cooks to be liberally soused in rum.
At the ensuing employment tribunal, Mr Silver argued that he had been a victim of workplace bullying ever since he had inaugurated the monthly 'bring your parrot to work day' - a practice that was popular with the crew, but which he claimed the company frowned upon.
Benbow Ferries denied this allegation. They were fully supportive of the 'parrot days', they said, because of the positive effect it had had on staff morale. They admitted that there had been one or two complaints from passengers, particularly in relation to the raucous squawking in the duty free shop and the quantity of bird droppings that found their way into the salad bar in the premier restaurant on Deck B. However, these were minor irritations and could be easily remedied with the use of Clingfilm, rubber bands and nets.
Ultimately, however, the tribunal chose not to accept Benbow Ferries' interpretation of events. Upon reaching a decision they adjudged that, although being drunk on duty was not normally acceptable in most working environments, according to Pirates of the Caribbean it appeared to be a long-standing nautical tradition. For this reason it could not be interpreted as gross misconduct. However they did take note of a number of comments made about Mr Silver's disabilities - particularly remarks about his eye patch and the possibility of his wooden leg making him a fire risk - and concluded that the real reasons for Mr Silver's dismissal were discriminatory.
Is there really a demand for blast-proof furniture? The good people at Comfystuff Furniture Stores seem to think so, which is why they now stock an extensive selection of chairs, sofas and tables that are capable of withstanding major explosions.
"The new Snuggledown three seater will survive anything short of a direct hit," marketing director Terry Pine told us. "Anyone sheltering beneath it has absolutely no worries about being wounded by shrapnel. And that's guaranteed. We also have a wide range of footstools that have been pounded by artillery fire at close range and have come through without displaying any signs of distress. Even our occasional tables have been subjected to prolonged machinegun fire, with the only symptoms of trauma being a few small scratches. And they will polish out fairly easily - guaranteed."
Mr Pine went on to say that the company's furniture was available with interest-free credit, and customers would need to pay nothing until next March. This, of course, is all very well but we still couldn't understand why anyone would need a chest of drawers capable of resisting an airstrike. Mr Pine's only response to this query was to fix us with a long, pained and forlorn stare and mutter, "You don't have kids, do you?"
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Stuffed with new material and old favourites, Recalled to Life is 280 pages of plumptiousness and very probably exactly what you need to prop up that wonky old table in the kitchen.
Find out more here.
Quality beards for busy professionals
The sound of fury
A catalogue of catastrophic failure
Spring clean your chakras
The XII Fish Olympiad
A breakthrough in lunch technology.
"Wrap your brains around these fiendish puzzles..."
"The discovery of a new number..."
Japanese car manufacturer Tykango, a manufacturer of Japanese cars, has been forced to discontinue the production of its latest model. The TYK405, as it was snappily titled, was both reliable and cheap to run. Indeed, it proved extremely popular with Japanese motorists and very speedily became the most abundant Japanese car on Japanese roads. However, Miko Kyoto, the Japanese engineer responsible for the innovative new vehicle, now recognises that it may have been a mistake to fit the car with a self-destruct mechanism. In a country where the latest gadgets and extras are an absolute must, such a device was thought to be an extremely attractive selling point. However, the positioning of the self-destruct button next to the Japanese cigarette lighter inevitably led to confusion, and the number of vehicles being exploded as they were driven to work grew to unacceptable proportions.
Many people have since questioned the necessity of building a self-destruct mechanism into the car in the first place, and the Japanese government is now considering the introduction of new Japanese legislation to curb the practice. Meanwhile, Miko Kyoto has since left the automobile industry and has set up a new company to develop a revolutionary new kind of Japanese toaster. Once again, it will be fitted with a self-destruct mechanism, and Mr Kyoto claims that it can level an area some twenty feet in radius, but leave the Japanese bread standing.
"The world's fattest man suffered a fatal earthquake in the early hours of the morning..."
"You're a miserable old sourpuss..."
"...dedicated to St Jemima of the Holy Rock, the patron saint of gravel..."
"It's always best to rest against something solid, such as a small horse..."more...
of the Bleeding Obvious
All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2014, 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.