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with Donald Fact
Maisy Donnington is your guide to the wonderful world of cheese
Language skills for motorists
Good evening, and if you're not having a good evening, what are you going to do about it? If the weather's not quite right, or your dinner's gone cold, or there's nothing on the television, or if the noise of the neighbours enjoying themselves is annoying you, then until now you've just had to lump it.
I say 'until now' since from the beginning of this month, people across the country have been able to submit their trifling, inconsequential whinges to us here at the Petty Complaints Ombudsman Service, where we will treat them with the respect they deserve.
Take this example from Gordon Bovary. Gordon is from Kidderminster, so he has a lot to complain about, but his current gripe reads like this:
Well, that one's going straight in the shredder. But not all of our complaints are about parking. Most of them are, but not all. Take this email from Jenny_Catlover45552, for example.
We've got people trying to decipher that one at the moment and will reply in due course - although it's highly likely that our response will be along the same lines as the one the police gave her.
One thing we find is that many of our correspondents are highly knowledgeable legal experts, and obviously this makes our job a whole lot easier. For instance, we have experts on consumer affairs:
And on health and safety:
It's easy to form the opinion that the authors of complaints such as these are spoilt time-wasters with zero sense of perspective and far too much time on their hands. But such an outlook would be doing them a disservice and putting me out of a job. Here at the Petty Complaints Ombudsman Service we realise that everyone has a right to an opinion, however worthless it may be, and by inviting these whinging gasbags to send their ridiculous grievances our way we are at least sparing everyone else the pain of having to deal with them.
If you have a petty and frivolous complaint, and you're looking for someone to pretend to take you seriously, please submit it below and it will be ignored in due course.
If, like me, you appreciate a satisfying retail experience, then you might find that visiting your local petrol station can be a bleak and dispiriting affair. However, I'm happy to say that in my case those days are now gone, ever since I discovered Pooley's Service Station and Convenience Store on the A39, just outside Barnstaple.
Oh certainly they have the full quota of available fuels, including LPG, and their confectionery range, situated within easy reach beside the cash register, is exemplary - I can confirm that they stock Twixes in both standard and deluxe sizes. But they can also boast something else - quality service.
All too often these days the purchase of fuel and associated motoring paraphernalia is accompanied by a surly disregard for the comfort and wellbeing of the purchaser, usually delivered by some callow and pimpled youth with little understanding of the value of a really good de-icer or a superior screen wash. That's not the case at Pooley's, where the staff are fully trained in as wide a range of motoring products as you'll find anywhere this side of Taunton Deane. And I do mean fully trained. Want to know which air freshener will best complement the slightly worn leather interior of a 2013 Mk V Ford Mondeo? These are the guys to ask.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking to owner Mike Pooley, an easy-going chap with some refreshing ideas about non-standard headlight modifications. He told me that quality customer service has always formed the bedrock of his operations. "If customers don't drive off our forecourt happier and more fulfilled than when they arrived," he told me, "then we very much feel that we've failed in our duty." And it is a duty. A very real one.
Mike was also very keen for me to mention the special two-for-one offer that they are currently running on Turtle Wax, and with top deals like that it's hard to see how they could possibly fail to provide satisfaction. But don't imagine that their attention to detail is limited to the motorist's trusty steed (car); they also provide fodder enough for the rider. What I'm trying to say is that they also do a full range of snacks and pies. In fact, they have just about everything you could possibly imagine to assist the weary traveller on his way. Their sandwich range is extensive, encompassing old favourites such as cheese and ham as well as more exotic fare such as egg and cress or chicken tikka, all of which are within their sell-by date. Their range of cold drinks, likewise, leaves little to be desired: they stock both Coke and Pepsi, as well as a more reasonably priced budget alternative.
But if it's something more substantial that you're looking for, then fear not - there is a microwave free for the use of any customers who purchase a qualifying product, plus a hot drinks machine. So why not treat yourself to a warming cup of hot chocolate as you peruse the impressive magazine display, or flick though the eclectic selection of mid-priced CDs at the counter?
Whatever your preference, Pooley's Service Station has something to make your journey a little easier. I can heartily recommend it, and although I'm not local and don't own a car, I can say without hesitation that I am happy to travel upwards of 140 miles out of my way for the sake of a cup of coffee and a Ginsters pasty served at just the right temperature.
This blog post was sponsored by Pooley's Service Station and Convenience Store. Call now for great deals on antifreeze.
We sincerely hope that everyone enjoyed their Christmas and wish you all a happy New Year. For your information there now follows a brief list of names which will feature prominently on The University of the Bleeding Obvious in 2017.
Dame Jerimiah Treacle
Mr Bellicose Cheesebiscuit
Shirley Twirly from Purley
Ron and Nellie Butterprompter
Lord Sidewinder of Kintyre (Tuesdays only)
The Right Reverend Dennis Cake
As yet, no biographical data is available for these persons. We regret that Dorian Spanners will not be available for the foreseeable future. Thank you.
Dusk in the Serengeti and as the dusty orb of the sun touches the tops of distant hills, turning their peaks into burning pillars of red, a movement beneath the dry earth causes ripples and eddies in the red baked soil. Slowly a pink nose breaks through the hard ground, followed by strong claws, scratching away until the gap is wide enough for the animal to emerge. Its shabby coat is slick with grease and grime, and it half-heartedly tries to shake the dirt free as it sits panting and wheezing, trying its best to recover from its efforts.
This is the Moroccan Dancing Mole, though why it bears that name is lost in the mists of time. It has never been observed to dance, preferring to slump sullenly on the edge of dancefloors and just watch. The most common explanation is that the early Europeans who first identified it were simply attempting to be ironic.
This one is a long way from home: Morocco is roughly three thousand six hundred miles away as the crow flies - even longer as the mole digs. But journeys of such length, even if they're not intentional, are not unusual when you can't see where you're going.
Moles are as blind as bats, which, notwithstanding the curious subterranean habits of the stub-nosed tunnelling bat, is all that the two species have in common. But whereas bats can rely on sophisticated sonar techniques, a heightened sense of spatial awareness and sat-nav to find their way about, moles enjoy no such luxuries.
This one is no different. Three months ago it set out on what it thought would be a short trip to the bazaar in Marrakech to pick up a pint of milk, some crusty baps for the weekend and a Curly Wurly as a special treat. Right now it's sitting the middle of a baking plain, surrounded by zebras and wondering where the off licence has gone.
It sniffs the air, cocks its head to one side listening for the slightest clue as to its whereabouts and shuffles round in a little circle. Night is quickly approaching, and with it the cool breeze. A new cast of predators will shortly take to the stage. This tiny, vulnerable creature, all alone in this strange and terrifying environment, doesn't know much, but it knows enough to realise that it should leave this place. With an almost world-weary sense of resignation, it crawls back into the earth, disappearing back into its dark netherworld to continue its journey and end up who knows where.
Clueless though the Moroccan Dancing Mole may be, it has nevertheless provided researchers with a valuable insight into a question that has puzzled them for some time: can moles swim? They have most certainly never been observed to. Go to any municipal swimming pool and you can be confident that you will never see a mole lazily gliding through the water on its back, or playfully splashing about in the shadows. You will see more than your fair share of stoats and weasels practising their front crawl in the main pool, vigorously towelling themselves off in the changing rooms or embarrassing themselves from the top diving board. But moles have always remained conspicuous by their absence.
And there is a very good reason why the ability to swim might be very important. Because navigation when you are almost blind is a practical impossibility for them, they are constantly driving their tunnels in directions that are simply not healthy for them. There are many reports of lost moles emerging on cliff faces and plummeting to their deaths, getting irretrievably entangled in the roots of trees or simply dashing their brains out by colliding head on with buried rocks. The law of averages surely dictates that they must quite frequently emerge underneath rivers and lakes. Why then have we no reports of their pitiful and misguided carcasses unhappily bubbling to the surface?
It took a team of researchers two years to find the answer, and when they did it turned out to be rather startling: they build airlocks.
Using a vast purpose-built landscape in which they could study the moles at their leisure, researchers observed exactly what happened when the moles were in danger of tunnelling up through the bed of an artificial lake. The moment the mole detects the first few spots of moisture on the tip of its nose, it springs into action. Using materials that it scavenges from its immediate surroundings - sticks, rocks, discarded bean tins and old inner tubes - it fashions a remarkably sophisticated airlock mechanism, tightly bound together with worms to make it airtight.
Using this arrangement, the mole can pass in and out of the water without the risk of flooding its carefully excavated network of tunnels. And, as it turns out, they can't swim, but they can hold their breath and actually cut quite graceful figures as they stroll up and down, annoying the fish.
It seems then that water actually presents very few problems for the average mole, whether it's a rushing torrent sweeping through a North American ravine, a muggy swamp on the equator...
... or here in the Arctic, where the wind sweeps a fine cloud of powdered snow down icy slopes to settle on the surface of bright blue pools of crystal brine, ringed with frost.
For a moment all is still then a dark shape from below comes rushing upwards, bobbing violently to the surface and spitting a huge plume of brackish water into the air. This is our Moroccan Dancing Mole again, still no closer to the off licence. Maybe it should have turned left at that last boulder, it thinks as it glances round in dismay and shivers. It treads water for a little while, hoping that one of the locals will come along so that it can ask directions, but after a few short minutes it decides that it's just a bit too nippy round here. It'll catch its death if it hangs about any longer, so it fixes on a likely direction, takes a deep breath, puffs out its fat furry cheeks and disappears back below the surface with a wet plop.
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With the seemingly perennial debate regarding the issuing of identity cards once again demanding media attention in the UK, one commentator has suggested an ingenious solution - the Lard Card. With the bearer's personal details and an identifying photograph clearly etched into its greasy surface, the Lard Card would carry none of the stigma attached to plastic cards, and would also come in handy for impromptu fry-ups, releasing small boys' heads from park railings, alleviating jogger's nipple and resurrecting the dead.
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All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2016, 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.