An unnamed source has leaked the contents of The Queen's New Year Honours List and there appear to be a few surprises in store, not least the news that Postman Pat is to be given an OBE. The annual list is part of the British honours system and announces the awards given out in the name of Her Majesty in recognition of services to country and community. Nominations usually come from a number of different sources, but this year Her Majesty has mixed things up a bit by drawing up the entire list herself and has included a Knighthood for Dangermouse, a CBE for Harry Potter and The Order of St John for Doctor Who. Womble fans will be pleased to learn that Great Uncle Bulgaria is set to become Lord Tidybag of Wimbledon, and there is a damehood in the works for Tinky Winky, founding member of the Teletubbies.
Not content with conferring honours on a large number of fictional characters, the Queen has also originated a number of new awards, including Master of the Jam Roly Poly, The Royal Order of the Rover's Return and The Bestest Award in the World Ever, awarded in recognition of ultimate selflessness and devotion in the line at Tesco's.
From next year all UK citizens will be required to take the new citizenship test.
Back in 2013, the Home Secretary announced that the 'Life in the United Kingdom' test, administered to all prospective immigrants, would be replaced by the new 'Isn't Britain Great!' test. This shifted the focus away from practical information about life in Britain, and concentrated instead on impressing foreigners with how great it is to live in the United Kingdom, reminding them that the country once had an empire that stretched around the globe, prompting them to brush up on their Shakespeare and then telling them to fuck off back to where they came from.
Following the success of the new test, it has been decided that as of next year it will be extended to all British Citizens. This means that being born in the UK will no longer automatically entitle you to citizenship, and that you will need to pass the 'Isn't Britain Great!' test in order to remain.
But there's no need to worry. The test requires you to answer a series of questions in relation to four distinct areas of British life, and should present no problem if you've got one it takes to be a citizen.
Do you know your Agincourt from your Waterloo? Can you answer questions on real life British heroes like Richard the Lionheart, Sir Edmund Hillary or Biggles? British people are proud of their history and frequently make reference to the majesty of the British Empire, whilst at the same time glossing over the exploitation and barbarism on which it was founded. If you can tell us, with a straight face, what was so glorious about the Glorious Revolution, then you're in.
Great Britain gave the world some of its greatest writers and artists - from H.G. Wells and Thomas Hardy, to Constable and that chap who saws the cows in half. Not my cup of tea, to be honest, but he brings in a lot of moolah. British people watch, on average, six Shakespeare plays a month, read three Charles Dickens or Jane Austen novels, and have memorised at least two Kipling poems by the age of six. The British film industry is recognised internationally for its excellence, and currently churns out over two and a half films a year - some of which eventually break even. The citizenship tests requires you to have a firm grasp of the contribution British culture has made to the world, including being able to name three of the Spice Girls and recite a section of dialogue from Are You Being Served?
Specifically, have you got any? A good British citizen is solvent, pays his taxes on time* and doesn't go around demanding hand-outs. We realise that everyone needs help at some time or another, whether it's the result of poor health, economic downturn or sheer bad luck. But seriously, don't bother us with your troubles. When British people fall on hard times they are expected to crawl away into a corner and not trouble anyone, rather than becoming a burden on the state. Financial astuteness and ingenuity, on the other hand, are greatly appreciated and sharp practice, creative accounting and embezzlement are frequently rewarded.
(*Citizens with an annual income of over £500,000 are able to opt out of the tax system)
The British political system is the envy of the world. British people look up to their elected leaders, trust in their judgement implicitly and hardly ever do rioting or any of that shit. But if British people are loyal to their government, this is but a fraction of the love they have for the Monarchy. Nobody in Britain thinks that the Royal Family are the inbred descendants of a gang of medieval horse thieves , who exist in an artificial bubble of opulence and have no concept of how real people live. No, in fact most Britons realise that the Queen is one of the hardest working people in the country, with a punishing schedule that requires her to step out of her palace as much as three times a month and wave at people for half an hour. Rather you than me, Maam!
There's more to being British than simply being born here. It isn't easy. But don't worry if you don't make it - deportation isn't all that bad. Who knows, you could even end up somewhere sunny.
Above all don't despair! We might not want you at the moment but, hey, things change: the economic climate, global warming, natural catastrophe... there might even be another war in the offing, in which case we'll welcome you back with open arms! The thing is to maintain a stiff upper lip, keep the Union Jack flying and one day, who knows, we might just send for you. Good luck!
Professor Jacob Marbles presents a striking image as he answers his front door, although not necessarily for the right reasons. He wears a tattered, camel-coloured dressing gown over a cable-knit sweater, decorated with tea stains and long forgotten breakfasts. Strands of straggly salt and pepper hair sweep majestically over the dome of his thinning pate, although not in any deliberate way. More in the manner of someone caught out in a storm. His attire also appears to be fairly liberally coated in cat hairs, a fact that becomes all the more curious when I later discover that he hasn't got a cat.
"We don't want any," he snaps, with a venom that is sure to leave even the most tenacious of door-to-door merchants in no doubt that the pickings at this address will be meagre. The door starts to close and I try to rally sufficiently to effect an explanation of my presence, but I appear to be conversationally winded.
Help arrives at the last minute in the form of the Professor's nurse who gently releases her charge's iron grip on the door and explains to the venerable old geezer that I am the man who has been sent to interview him. Despite this, it is still with some degree of caution that the Professor allows me to enter.
Such awkwardness is only to be expected, as anyone with even the most fragile familiarity with the Professor's history will confirm. I had never met him before but I have spoken to those who have and clearly they still bear the scars. Professor Marbles has never been known to be particularly active socially and he is even more reserved in professional circles. Yet despite his habit of keeping himself to himself, he has a reputation for offending more people, and being thrown out of more places, than anyone. It seems that even the briefest contact with him is enough to start a fracas, which perhaps explains why his nurse is so keen to keep him locked up at home.
His legendary hospitality is once more in evidence as we take our seats in the front room and the nurse offers me a cup of tea.
"Help yourself!" snarls the Professor. "Finish off the milk while you're at it. I suppose you want a biscuit?"
I politely decline this generous offer but the Professor won't hear of it and insists that I have a custard cream. In fact, he's so anxious that I should partake of his generosity that he picks up the aforementioned biscuit and hurls it in my direction. I duck, feel the biscuit whistle past my ear and hear the chink of china as it ricochets from the dresser behind me.
The Professor's magnanimity knows no bounds and a further three custard creams, a couple of jammie dodgers and a chocolate hob nob are propelled in my direction before his nurse is able to disarm him. And not before time too, as I fear that if the livid trail of crumbs across my cheek was anything to go by, the Professor was just getting his aim in.
For a man of genius, this kind of eccentric behaviour is easily overlooked. According to reports, however, Professor Marbles' behaviour is widely frowned upon by his colleagues, and those colleagues entertain similar misgivings on the subject of his genius. This is odd, because if said colleagues have any expectations of enjoying a long and prosperous career, then it will be Professor Marbles that they need to thank.
So why would their future prospects ever be in doubt?
"Because of the impending discovery of a grand unified theory, you cretin," says Professor Marbles as he leans forward and gobs in my tea. "The theory of everything - profound enough to put an end to our search for knowledge and simple enough to print on a T-shirt. Now, I expect you're about to ask me something incredibly stupid. You are, aren't you? I can see it welling up in you."
I hesitate. The nurse has left the room and suddenly I feel very alone and vulnerable. There is nothing for it but to press on, so I ask why this discovery would have such an impact. Even though he has apparently anticipated this question, Professor Marbles nevertheless feels it necessary to demonstrate his displeasure by hurling a coal scuttle at my head. It misses and clangs into the wall behind.
"Ask yourself this," he hisses as the echoes fade away. "Once we understand everything there is to know about the universe - once we can finally fill in those missing pieces in the jigsaw, comprehend the intricate workings of reality and describe the delicate interplay of forces and properties that underpin the very nature of existence - once we know all that, what is left?"
I patiently wait for him to tell me. He glares at me, his eyes bloodshot and bulging, the tendons stretched taut in his neck. I feel sure the question is meant to be rhetorical but he seems to be expecting me to answer. I fear a trap, but my nerve gives out first.
"Well, I suppose the nature of consciousness - "
"Pah!" he cries venomously. "What would you know of consciousness; you're barely awake as it is? No, there would be nothing left. Nothing left to discover. Not proper science stuff anyway. Oh yes, you're always going to get people fiddling about with new types of washing power and developing different flavoured dog food, but the big stuff - kaput!"
"Kaput!" the Professor emphasises with a rude gesture. "Which means all those scientists will be out of work. Think of that, hmm? No? You can't, because it's unthinkable. Those people haven't got a clue what it's like in the real world. They stepped straight out of university and straight into a lab coat. It would be chaos."
"Which is where your Unknowable Theory comes in?" I ask cautiously and then flinch. In the short time I have known Professor Marbles, this reaction has become autonomous. However, much to my surprise he doesn't take it as a cue to fling something sharp at me.
"That's right, lad," he says gently. "You've got it." He even gives me a playful wink. It is all deeply, deeply disturbing and I find myself on my guard more than ever as he goes on to outline the thinking behind his theory.
"What we needed was an idea so radical, so extraordinary and so impossibly impenetrable that no one will ever be able to get to grips with it. Unknowable Theory is precisely that. If you think you've understood it, then you haven't. The only thing that we can say about it with any degree of confidence is that it is impossible to know anything about it... also, it has something to do with zebras."
At a recent lecture in Vienna the Professor spent nine hours explaining his theory to eight hundred of the planet's most accomplished - and expensive - scientists. He showed over four thousand slides and diagrams, made use of hardware specially loaned for the occasion by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and drew upon reams of the very latest cosmological research. Nobody could follow a word of it. He received a standing ovation and as the assembled boffins filed out of the auditorium, clutching their packets of complimentary chocolate digestives and massaging their aching buttocks, it was as if a great burden had been lifted from their shoulders. Here at last was a field of research that would occupy scientists for centuries and happily keep everyone in clover for life.
But can we really be confident that we will never crack Professor Marbles' impenetrable conundrum? Is there not a danger that somewhere, someday, some smart aleck will go and ruin it for everyone by finally figuring it out? When I put this question to the Professor he responds with a string of abuse and I quickly dodge the tea tray that comes spinning through the air and smashes into the ornaments on the dresser. I feel that I'm back on comfortably familiar territory.
"My theory isn't just some half-baked notion dreamt up by a loser like Einstein or Newton," he drools and splutters as he fidgets about excitedly in his chair. Unknowable Theory is so completely radical that we need a whole new language to describe it. I am currently devising such a language but I need six more consonants."
Even so, I reason, is it not possible that someone might conceivably... I get no further than this as Professor Marbles demonstrates that he has finally had enough of this line of questioning. He calls for his nurse who returns promptly with a loaded shotgun. Persuaded to leave my final query unanswered, I take it upon myself to show myself out and make it to the door just in time to hear a loud explosion and perceive a vase exploding into a shower of fragments somewhere close by.
I sprint down the street and around the corner before stopping to regain my breath. Whatever the merits of Professor Marbles' theory, I reflect, if it serves to keep him and his kind occupied and away from normal society, then that can't be a bad thing. I think we'll all feel a lot safer if it continues to do so for many years to come.
Yes, new digital tyres are a boon to parking, allowing you to position your car perfectly, with none of that troublesome rolling backwards and forwards that you experience with analogue wheels.
The patent CubularTM shape means less wear and tear on your brakes and they're 4 times as durable because you'll only ever get a puncture on one side!
For maximum security and minimum fuss, fit digital tyres today!
Requires a digital air hose adaptor to get air into the corners.
There will be jubilations aplenty in Leicester next month when NASA's unmanned Spacefarer IV probe touches down on the rocky surface of Mars. British company Space Mail UK has played a crucial role in the multi-billion dollar mission and staff and bosses will be celebrating in style.
"It's a good feeling to be part of a team that is pushing forward the boundaries of human endeavour and forging a new understanding on the frontiers of science," says managing director Steve Stevenson. "It really was a great honour for our company to be chosen to undertake this challenging task: supplying the stationery for this exciting project."
For commercial reasons the exact value of the contract has not been made public, but it is thought that it could be as much as £70 to £75, assuming that the order is for both letter-headed paper and envelopes - more, if the envelopes are those ones with the little windows in them.
Minister for Business, Chris Christopher, has been quick to highlight this success story, calling it a 'giant leap' for business, reaffirming that Britain is still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to technology and innovation.
But how does the stationery work? Space Mail UK's head of research and technology, Dr John Johnson, explained. "What we have developed is essentially a two stage system, consisting of a unique letter-envelope combination," he told us. "The letter contains the message, or payload, which is housed within the protective envelope, the two elements being assembled at mission control prior to launch. A special heat-resistant coating applied to the envelope means that it can survive the rigours of most postal systems. It has the potential to be delivered to any destination on the planet, even circle the globe without suffering too much damage - what the boffins refer to as a 'geo-stationery orbit'."
Space Mail UK has commissioned an animation demonstrating how the system is expected to perform once it reaches the target area. On arrival at the destination the envelope is jettisoned, the letter unfolds and the message is delivered. That's the theory anyway, but an unnamed insider told us that the company experienced several problems with early prototypes. Our source told us that a number of letters went wildly off target and there was even one incident of an envelope catching fire mid-journey and seriously injuring a postman in Chiswick. Understandably then, there will continue to be some anxiety until the stationery has been proven in a real world environment. After all, there is a lot riding on this mission, including the possibility of a major order for business cards from the Atomic Energy Commission and a potential shipment of paperclips to CERN.
Anyway - 'geo-stationery'. Get it? Oh, never mind.
See the full list
A boon to the chair industry
Keyreading for beginners
The sound of fury
Courtesy of the ladies of Melton Mowbray
A breakthrough in lunch technology.
The National Sandwich Hotline
"Quentin Tote has discovered a new smell..."
"Wrap your brains around these fiendish puzzles..."
The latest craze for the high-flying, celebrated and self-important elite is pizza therapy. It's inventor, Emo Ravioli, once owned a thriving pizza restaurant in Hollywood. Now he makes a fortune tending to the pizzas of the rich and famous, and Hollywood's 'A list' are happy to pay him anything up to $10,000 for a session. By inspecting a celebrity's favourite pizza, and carefully examining the condition of the peppers or the sweetcorn, Emo claims he has a window into the troubled star's soul. Often he can help just by suggesting an alternative topping. Sometimes happiness is only a pineapple chunk away. At other times more radical treatment is necessitated and Emo is required to adopt a 'hands on' approach - manipulating anchovies or stroking mushrooms in order to restore the perfect pizza balance. However, not everyone is impressed by his work. One Hollywood starlet, who shall remain nameless, is currently seeking damages against Ravioli, claiming that during one session last October he took advantage of his position of trust and manhandled her pepperoni.
"A gentleman never fouls himself upwind of a waitress..."
"How close a Gentleman should get to a Lady..."
"...madcap antics ..."
"Quality Donkeys for Hire or Purchase..."more...
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.
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.