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A recent discovery by palaeontologists working at a site in Patagonia has significantly increased our knowledge of prehistoric life. Very occasionally, when conditions are right, fossils can reveal the imprints of soft tissues as well as bone. Such was the case with an almost intact specimen of a Brontosaurus found earlier this year, and its discoverers were considerably surprised to find that the animal had quite sizeable ears.
Professor Ernest Cartlidge is particularly excited by the discovery and he painted us a vivid picture of life in the prehistoric age.
"Look at this little guy," he said, pointing to an artist's impression of the dinosaur in question. "He looks a happy little feller, doesn't he? Just goin' about his day, a-munchin and a-crunchin with not a care in the world. Well, this guy, he's what scientists call a 'herbivore'. He doesn't eat meat, old Bronty. No siree! He survives by foraging for nuts and berries.
"Now wait just one God darn a minute, I hear you say. How can a big old critter like that get by on nuts and berries? Why, that's just a load of old hokum, for sure. Well actually, back in prehistoric times, long before you and I were around - long before even your mom and pop were around - everything was way, way bigger. Jurassic nuts were the size of small car - plenty big enough for a hungry dinosaur! Oh yeah!
"But not all dinosaurs were herbivores. Oh no. Some of 'em used to luuurve gobblin' up other dinosaurs and we call these 'carnivores'. Just take a little a looky at this guy. That's Tee-Ranosaurus Rex. He sure looks an ornery feller, don't he? Old Tee-Rexy, well he just can't get enough of that tender loin of Stegosaurus, or a couple of Brachiosaur burgers or even a bucket of crispy coated pterosaur wings. Mmm, yummy - that's some mighty fine eatin'!
"But, uh oh, wait a minute now. Tee-Rexy's got a problem. Just look at those ginormous feet! Well, he sure looks funny. An' it's bad news for Rexy, 'cos it means that Bronty can hear that big old lumbering bruiser coming from miles away, thanks to those great big ears of his. There's no way that he's going to become a dino-dinner!"
Professor Cartlidge went on to explain why he believes that many other species of dinosaur also had ears, and theorised that this is the main reason they remained dominant for so long.
"Yes sir, a good pair of ears is about the most useful thing that you could possibly have in the animal kingdom. Old Ralphy Rat knows it, when he's a-scurrying and a-scampering about after scraps. Old Mortimer Mole knows it when he's a-ferreting and a-fidgeting about for worms under the soil. So why not the dinosaurs? And do you know what? The really super-great thing about ears is that they're useful for more than just listening to things. Oh boy! See, it used to get mighty hot back in the old days, what with all the volcanos and the acid rain an' all. So you're gonna need a decent hat and it's only your ears that are gonna to stop it slipping down over your eyes.
"And speaking of eyes, there ain't nothin' worse than a short-sighted dinosaur, a-bumblin' and a-stumblin' around, bumping into trees and rocks and causing all them there earthquakes. But if you got a pair of ears, well now, then you got yourself something to hook your spectacles round.
"But the absolute greatest, most useful and toppermost awesome thing that ever did happen to those ears was that they evolved. See, over time, old Bronty and his chums, they got smaller and smaller and all covered over with feathers until they turned into the birds of today, like chickens and thrushes and parrots and things. And as they did, so those big ol' floppy ears turned into flappy wings. And that's why the birds you see a-peckin' and a-bobbin' about your garden don't have no ears of their own, and why you'll never see a sparrow wearin' glasses."
The people's flag is deepest red
It shrouded oft our martyred dead
But colours made us lose the vote
And government now seems remote
So come on, tear this symbol down
And trample it upon the ground
To grasp at power, our faith we'll shed
And rip our principles to shreds
There's nothing worse than a stroppy chicken, as anyone who has ever been on the sharp end of one will tell you. I have personally been the victim of a chicken called Matilda McAlester (although I can't guarantee that she's not using an alias) who seems to have been holding a grudge against me for the last five years.
She often comes round my house when I'm not there and stuffs feathers through my letterbox, and this can be terribly difficult to explain whenever I have friends over. Luckily I don't have any friends, so the problem doesn't arise, but it's dreadfully inconvenient all the same.
The worst thing about this whole situation is that I have absolutely no idea why this fractious fowl has decided to pick on me. As far as I'm aware I've done nothing to incur her wrath, nor do I have anything against poultry in general. I can only conclude that she's mental.
And this got me thinking. I am a firm believer in the idea that disruptive and antisocial behaviour is a result of upbringing and environment - especially when it comes to chickens - and I was certain that Matilda McAlester's problems stemmed from when she was an impressionable young egg. But what could possibly drive a young chicken to distraction?
Then suddenly, as I was waiting for a number 52 bus to Doncaster, I had an epiphany! This caused some distress to the people waiting along with me, many of whom were elderly and infirm, and unaccustomed to finding themselves on the periphery of a major discovery. However, after I had made my apologies and seen off the ambulance, I had chance to reflect upon my sudden flash of insight.
The driving rain beating on top on the bus shelter had made me consider the effects of rain drumming on the top of an egg. The constant din would be enough to send even the most stable of young chicks right round the chuff. Imagine being trapped inside a bottle bank, with Ringo Star hammering away on top of you day and night. Doesn't bear thinking about, does it?
The solution seemed simple enough: fit each egg with an umbrella, thus protecting it from the elements. During my initial experiments I tried first welding, and then gluing the umbrella to the top of the egg, but these methods proved unsatisfactory. However, in recent weeks I have enjoyed some considerable success using rivets, and will soon be ready to unveil my egg umbrella to the world.
This means that hopefully, in the not too distant future, people like myself will be able to go about their business free from the troublesome attentions of lunatic birds.
"I just can't seem to get up in the mornings," says Gary Flange. "To be honest, that's the main reason I'm still local. I don't really have the energy to go anywhere else."
Gary has long suspected that there was more to his problem than just idleness and, after reading a recent article about the likelihood of power outages, he's now convinced.
"They said there could be an energy crisis this winter," he tells us. "I said to the wife, it's here already! I'm constantly knackered and am confined to the sofa most of the time. It's all I can do to get up and make a sandwich. The report talked about blackouts and, let me tell you, I've had my fair share of them. Usually after I've been on the Newcastle Brown but, it's like I keep telling my doctor, I have to drink it to keep my strength up."
To be fair, the report Mr Flange refers to talks of possible electricity supply problems arising from an increase in demand and the closure of a number of power stations. It didn't really indicate a general lethargy sweeping the country. When we put this to Mr Flange he replies cautiously.
"Well," he says. "You talk about 'increased demand'. You talk about 'power stations'. You talk about... what was that other thing you talked about? Yeah, something about sweeping legacies in the country. Well, whatever. All I know is that I haven't felt the same since our Karen's birthday do, so there's certainly something going on. I don't know whether I've picked up a bug, had a dodgy kebab or whether this is something to do with that fracking that everybody's talking about. All I know is I'm bushed and I reckon that I should be sent on holiday on the National Health. Now, if you don't mind, Judge Rinder's on and I need to go and have a lie down. Bye."
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of the Bleeding Obvious
All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2015, 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.