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Birdwatchers from all over the country have been flocking to a small town in Derbyshire to watch a rare European bee-eater called Tony, and frankly he's sick of it. The bird, currently holidaying in the country over the summer, has been pestered by twitchers since he arrived and he feels that it's all gone a bit too far.
"It was very pleasant at first," he told us. "I mean, who wouldn't be just a little bit flattered by all that attention? But pretty soon it becomes way too much. I mean, I can't do anything without some be-anoraked nerd sticking his long lens in. I'm just going about my business, trying to have a few relaxing weeks to myself before I have to get back to the daily grind of catching insects and fighting for survival. But can I get a moment's peace? Can I hell! I tell you, I was thinking of bringing the wife and kids here next year, but if this is how you treat your visitors then forget it - we'll go to Disneyland instead."
Responding to Tony's comments, a spokesman from the RSPB said, "Fuck me, a talking bird!"
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."
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.
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.
The Doncaster Rocket (concept artwork)
During her lifetime Elisabeth 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.
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Mr Daniel Hines, a cobbler from Bedford, has recently been fined £6000 for the unlawful use of other people's shoes. For the last twenty years Mr Hines, who does not own a pair of shoes himself, has been availing himself of the footwear left in his care by the customers at his thriving heel bar, using them to go out shopping, visit friends or even for walks in the park. However, a recent investigation uncovered Mr Hines' nefarious activities and the police swooped on him last June. During the three day trial, the jury heard eyewitness reports of Mr Hines smooching about Sainsbury's in a pair of brown suede slip-ons, and watched security video footage of him buying a newspaper and a packet of liquorice allsorts in WH Smith sporting navy blue ankle length moon boots. However, the most damning evidence was provided by Mrs Denise Rigsby of 42 The Larches, Biggleswade, who does not wish to be named. "I had suspected that something strange was going on for some time," said Mrs X. "So when I took my favourite pair of white slingbacks to be re-heeled, I made a careful note of the mileage. Sure enough, when I got them back I noticed that there was an extra three hundred miles on the clock. When I confronted Mr Hines about it, he told me it was because the new heels had to be 'run in' but I later discovered that he had been seen out in them at the Emerald Palace night-club in Warfarin Street."
Mr Hines has refused to comment on the case, but a spokesman for the evil cobbler told as that he also asked for several pairs of sandals and a front door key to be taken into account.
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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.