North Pole to be relocated to the South Pole

In an unexpected announcement, Russia, Denmark, Canada, Norway and the United States have revealed that the Arctic region is to be transported southwards until it becomes a continuation of the Antarctic.  The unprecedented accord between traditionally hostile countries has been brought about during specially arranged discussions over a period of months and orchestrated by a United Nations special committee.

“It seemed logical to combine the two areas for a number of reasons” said a spokesperson.  “With the ice caps melting, there have been large gaps between ice fields and these can now be eliminated.  Furthermore, exploratory expeditions don’t need to pick one area to travel to because they’ll be going to both poles at once.  It’s very economical.”  It had been suggested that the motives for stripping the North Pole of its ice might involve making access easier for oil drills but this has been hotly refuted by all parties.  “If it happens to make things easier for Shell, then that’s an unintended side effect.” remarked one member of the special committee, who declined to reveal how many of its number have shares in the controversial oil company.

northpole

The Arctic in its present location

Conservation groups have issued statements of concern over the fate of the Arctic fauna, such as the polar bear and the Arctic fox; while the specific concerns have yet to be addressed, a brief rebuttal was issued, claiming that the mathematical projections have been promising for most animals ‘apart from the penguins and there are loads of them’.

 

 

Discussions have yet to take place regarding the name for the newly expanded region, although there have been a number of ideas generated by Twitter users.  At the last count, the most popular possibilities were Biarctica, Panpolia and the Northern Powerhouse.

Conspiracy theorist thwarted by Lemmy’s birthdate

A professional conspiracy theorist from Kent has expressed disappointment that Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, of the band Motörhead, didn’t die five days earlier, when he was still 69.  Dan Lessing, 44, claims this ruined his chances of fabricating a perfect conspiracy theory from the tragic coincidence of both David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying aged 69 from cancer, the disease that also killed Lemmy.  “I’m totally devastated at the deaths of these giants of the entertainment world.” Lessing told us, “But as they’re gone anyway, it’s just a shame I can’t make their passing a little more dramatic and sinister with a rumour that dark forces were involved.  Or the royal family, which is much the same.”

The father of four, who gave up his insurance sales job in 1997 to focus on perfecting a conspiracy theory about Diana, Princess of Wales, said he had considered trying out a couple of theories regarding Bowie and Rickman, but added “Everybody knows there have to be at least three for it to catch on.”

Mixed success

Some of Lessing’s better known conspiracies include the Wingdings font predicting the 911 attacks, cars which run on household rubbish being suppressed by the oil industry and the existence of a cure for the common cold since 1968.  While these have gained considerable support, many of Lessings attempts have fallen flat:

  • In 2004, he said that David James had died in a car accident and been replaced in the England squad by a female lookalike from a rugby union club in Hull
  • In 2010, he claimed there was evidence that Ken Bruce was the Grand Master of the British cadre of the Illuminati
  • Since 1999, he has cast doubt that the Battle of Hastings happened, insisting that the Bayeux Tapestry was just a big comic strip, intended only for entertainment purposes

In spite of experiencing these setbacks, Lessing sees great hope for his profession in the future due to the rise of social media.  “In 1997, I spent weeks sending letters to newspapers and telling people in the pub what had really happened to Diana – God rest her beautiful soul – and it cost me a fortune in stamps and beer.  Nowadays, I only need to tweet once and it turns up everywhere.”

When we asked him if he was working on anything at the moment, he said he was keeping a close eye on some 69-year-old celebrities and had a ‘special project’ in the pipeline; he refused to elaborate much due to fears that someone may steal his theory. He hinted, however, that it involves Jeremy Corbyn, a Russian cloning laboratory and a reported grave robbing at Highgate Cemetery in 1948.

Not a New Year’s Resolution

I don’t have much will power.  By way of illustration, I have yet to sort out my wardrobe, having vowed to do it by Christmas.  2013.  So, New Year’s resolutions are pretty much an invitation from me to me, saying ‘Dear Oonagh, Please be a massive failure.  All the best, Oonagh’ and nobody wants that, least of all the people who would have to listen to me moan about it for the rest of the year.  I do, however, want to make some kind of effort just to have something to boast about on Facebook and there’s so much scope for that; I could virtually do anything even half decent and it would herald a better me; it’s one of the beauties of maintaining consistently low standards.  This is why I have decided to avoid New Year’s resolutions completely and do twelve ‘New Month resolutions’ for 2016.  Surely even I can maintain a change for one month.

 

Many people are doing ‘dry January’, which involves swearing off alcohol for a month, but I don’t drink the stuff as I’m enough of an idiot without exacerbating factors, and others are doing ‘Veganuary’, which – as you may have guessed if you have the deductive skills of anything more sentient than Donald Trump’s hair – is living a vegan lifestyle for the month of January.  The meaner among you may suppose that this involves marching up and down outside butchers’ shops, carrying protest placards, wearing hemp and shouting “I’m a vegan!”, but it really just means living a cruelty-free lifestyle by not eating or drinking any animal derivatives.  This is also not an option for me; not because I crave the blood of chickens or have an insatiable desire to attend ‘club your own lamb’ parties, but because I’m already vegan.  What I have decided to try and do throughout January is to eat no food that contains added sugar.

 

If you have ever seen my Twitter account, you may be reasonably convinced that I live on Hobnobs, chocolate, cake and tea, because they’re all a bit of a running theme.  You may also be convinced that I have ‘The Bumper Book of Cracker Jokes’ and I’m just tweeting them all for a bet; neither of these things are true.  I do eat Hobnobs – which fall into the ‘accidentally vegan food’ category – and I also eat chocolate and cake and I drink A LOT of tea, I mean in ‘the Guinness Book of Records people are on the phone for you’ kind of amounts, but the chocolate and cake are rare treats, partly because I need to find the vegan versions but also because I don’t have much money for treats.  I’ve spent it all on tea, hemp clothes and The Bumper Book of Cracker Jokes.  Given that I’m not the cake fiend I seem, it should be pretty easy to give up sugar for a month, right?  Right?  WRONG!

 

Apparently, there’s a rule that says all food apart from salad and tripe must contain sugar, and I have my suspicions about tripe.  There’s sugar in my ‘healthy’ cereal.  It’s in most of the bread in the supermarket.  It’s in my delicious vegan pesto (that I add to far too many things, if I’m honest).  It’s even in salt and vinegar crisps!!  So, sugar-free January may prove somewhat trickier than I’d presumed.  It took me over an hour to find bread that was both vegan and sugar free, which is why there are eight loaves in my freezer and another on the worktop.  I won’t inflict a Venn diagram on you, but if I were to do one of food that is vegan and sugar free, it would have a similar amount of items in the centre as a Venn diagram of ‘Things said by the Kardashian family’ and ‘Things that broadly make sense’.  It’s looking as though I may spend January eating fruit, veg, porridge and nine loaves of bread – oh, and ready-salted crisps.  I’m beginning to wish I’d opted for ‘New Week’s resolutions’!

A Guide to Health and Safety in Christmas Songs

Many Christmas songs contain lyrics that might lead revellers to do things that have a high level of risk.  In the very popular ‘The Christmas Song’, for example, the lyrics make ‘Jack Frost nipping at your nose’ seem like a harmless winter occurrence, whereas it is actually very dangerous to allow extremities to become frostbitten and can lead to tissue loss and permanent disfigurement.

As a precaution, I have highlighted some of the most severe examples of health and safety violation in some of the most popular Christmas songs.  Be safe, people.  Happy Christmas and I’ll see you in the New Year – if we all survive!

songsafety

 

The Cat Under the Stairs

He’d not long turned four when he first mentioned the cat under the stairs.  He’d taken to playing in the space, in spite of how dark it was and the fact that there always seemed to be a pile of coats that littered the floor because they wouldn’t stay on their hooks.  It was a rainy afternoon during the autumn half term, so all the children were in the house and the noise level was reaching critical mass.

I’d taken the fresh laundry from the dryer and as I stood holding the warm bundle in the kitchen, even above the childish din, I heard an almighty yell from upstairs; dropping everything, I ran!  In the room shared by the two younger girls was a horrible mess caused by what looked like paint but smelled like soap.  “He’s ruined everything!” wailed one, “On purpose!” chimed in another!  And I had to agree; quite a few things were definitely ruined!  Their carefully constructed Lego models and a beautiful lamp were now covered in purplish-blue gunk, which was running across the shelf and falling onto the books and toys on the shelves below.  He was standing in the corner of the room, still holding the dripping bucket that usually only saw the light of day during trips to the beach; his hands, T-shirt and some of his hair bearing the tell-tale signs of his guilt but his face the picture of innocence.  “The cat said I should do it!” he stated, quietly and unphased by the commotion still raging.  “We don’t have a cat!” I replied, baffled.  “We do!” he insisted!  “The cat under the stairs.”

Almost without fail, from that day, every misdemeanour, every indiscretion he committed – and there were very many – was blamed on the cat.  He never gave it a name, as many do with imaginary friends, nor could he describe it, even when pressed, yet referred to it as ‘he’ in conversation.  He refused to accept that the cat wasn’t real, although we reasoned with him, emptied the space so he could see there was no cat and did everything in our power to distract him and find him real human friends to play with.

On his eighth birthday, we bought a kitten; a tiny tabby speck with a sweet nature and soft fur.  He refused to name it or have anything to do with its care, claiming that the cat under the stairs didn’t like it and wanted it to go.  Indeed, the kitten seemed to take great pains to avoid the area under the stairs, walking a curious path whenever it neared the space.  Occasionally, she would hiss and bristle at the staircase.  It was unnerving, to say the least.  After only two months, the kitten slipped out unnoticed and, in spite of circulating posters, she was never returned to us.  We decided not to buy another pet.

As the years passed, the imaginary cat remained part of our lives, to the point that he would insist on adding ‘and the cat’ to cards and gift tags and we could see the knowing glances that would pass between relatives at gatherings.  He’d vanish under the stairs, from where we could hear low muttering and long pauses.  We took him to see a child psychologist, who suggested that being a lone boy among several sisters may be behind his wish to have a male companion to himself, even an imaginary one.  It seemed unlikely to me but with no other explanation forthcoming and no other real behavioural problems that couldn’t be accounted for by being the spoilt youngest child, we didn’t pursue the matter.  We simply waited for him to grow out of it.

When he was fourteen, we began to feel very squashed in the house that had been fine for two adults and five children but was less accommodating for seven adult-sized people.  As soon as we began to look for another house, he became almost inconsolable; he barely slept, he spent more and more time under the stairs, even doing homework in there, albeit of very poor quality.  We reassured him that we were only looking locally, that he would still go to the same school and see the same school friends, not that he had many.  He didn’t care; he just wanted to stay with the cat under the stairs.

Before too long, we managed to find somewhere bigger and within our price range so, after a couple of frantic months, we were standing in the new house, surrounded by boxes.  I saw him looking toward the door that formed a cupboard of the space under the stairs; I watched him as he tentatively opened the door, flicked on the light and looked inside.  A strange look passed over his face: relief?  “Is there space for your cat?” I joked, trying to lighten the mood.  “There never was a cat.” He said, looking very, very young, all of a sudden.  I felt my breath catch in my chest at this long-awaited admission.   “But he said you’d worry if I told you he was a goat.”

 

Venus

In the flap of the crow’s sleek wing,

In the drip of the ink from the nib,

In the shadow cast by the moon,

In the laughter heard in the night,

In the splash of the leaping fish,

In the dance of the marionette,

In the toll of the distant bell,

In the kiss of the wind on the trees,

In the scarlet of sultry lips,

In the purr of the stretching cat,

In the world, in all the world,

Yet not.

In the Headlight

The image flashed by so quickly, that it had gone before her brain could register it properly.  Just a flash in the headlights; a moth, perhaps, or something flung across her path by the wind.  She was already so tired her mental processes were a bit slower than they should be when driving, but it would be another half an hour, maybe forty minutes, before she would reach her home.

For months, she’d been searching for a job closer to where she lived.  It wasn’t just the long drive there and back that made it so hard to take; it was also the long hours in the bar, standing the whole time, dealing with idiots making the same jokes every night.  The young ones, convinced she wouldn’t be able to resist their predictable and usually offensive comments, the older, married-looking ones spouting crap about their problems.  And then there were the ones for whom she was invisible; a nobody who didn’t deserve a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’; the ones who wouldn’t even put the money in her hand, but would slap it onto the bar and turn away, already disengaged from her existence.

Her bed welcomed her with a cool, soothing embrace and, in spite of a vague rumble from her empty belly, she was asleep in minutes.  When the light dragged her into wakefulness, she had no recollection of her dream, apart from a nagging suspicion that it had been about a moth or something.

Hours later, as she eased into the bend, the flash in the headlights caught her eye and a sense of déjà vu hit her.  Without much conscious input, her brain ran through a list of possibilities: a moth, a leaf, a ray of light, a reflection.  A reflection?  She didn’t even know how she’d arrived at that idea.  A reflection of what?  All the way home, she couldn’t shake the idea that she should know what it was that she’d seen lit up for an instant in the beam of her headlight.

Every night for the next four days, she saw the same flash at the same place.  On night three, she drove really slowly as she approached the bend: walking pace, almost, yet she still only saw the maddening flash as the compelling image appeared and vanished.  She found herself lying awake, staring into the darkness, trying to visualise what she’d seen in the hope of resolving the mystery.

On the fourth night, she rounded the bend and saw the flash again, but this time she only drove a short way further until she reached a passing place.  She pulled in and turned off the engine.  It seemed as though this torment would drive her mad if she didn’t find an explanation for the vision.  “Round the bend!” she heard herself say to the empty road.

The exact spot where the image was visible was really easy to find now that she’d seen it so many times, but as she stood at the side of the road, there was nothing that could explain it.  Turning slowly, she looked from the floor to the treetops, searching for anything that might project an image, allow a chink of light through from some hidden source or house a nest of flying creatures that might be taking turns to cross her path.  Nothing!  She stepped back a little.  Nothing!  A little more.  Nothing!  Bending, she tried to fix her eyeline to where she imagined it would be if she were in the car and as her hair swished forward she thought she might have caught a glimpse of something shining in the air.  She heard the car before she saw it swoop around the dark bend.  Just in time to glance towards it as it hit her.  One eye catching the light of the driver’s headlights.  Like a moth.

Jeremy Corbyn (For Michael Hogan, with apologies to The Beatles)

(To the tune of Eleanor Rigby)

Ah look at all the Labour people
Ah look at all the Labour people

Jeremy Corbyn, picks up the votes
In the race where Liz Kendall has been
Lives in a dream.
Reading the papers, then he finds out
That he’s been slagged off by Tony Blair
What does he care?

All the Labour people
Where have they all come from?
All the Labour people
Where do they all belong?

Here’s Andy Burnham, toeing the line
And pretending he didn’t wimp out,
He has no doubt!
Look at him working, selling himself
As the one that can make a breakthrough.
But is it true?

All the Labour people
Where do have all come from?
All the Labour people
Where do they all belong?

Ah look at all the Labour people
Ah look at all the Labour people

And Yvette Cooper?  Haven’t a clue what she stands for
Because she won’t say,
Out loud anyway!
Look at Liz Kendall, swearing she’s red
When it seems to the world as if she’s.
Tory instead!

All the Labour people
Where have they all come from?
All the Labour people
Where did it all go wrong?

Breakthrough in Hipster Study

Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire have published the results of a long-term study into the effects of wearing unnecessary glasses and the habitual overuse of irony.  The study was funded by the NHS because of a widespread syndrome, termed Chronic Hipster Affective Disorder (CHAD).

Beards and hats

The problem has been observed in both sexes up to the age of 72, but most commonly affects males between the ages of 17 and 30.  Symptoms include heavy beard growth (mostly males), a propensity for using archaic language forms and a strong inclination to wear hats.  The report details how researchers recognised a strong correlation between reading late 19th-century German poetry and listening to Finnish harpsichord music and the early onset of CHAD.  Initially, volunteers were persuaded to take part in the study as it was the first of its kind; however, as the study moved into its second year, only those volunteers prepared to take part in an ironic way remained and after two years, scientists were forced to carry out their observations in the sufferers’ natural environment.

The hipster environment

According to the chief researcher, Dr. Elizabeth Barker, the main problem with this new approach was the difficulty of tracking sufferers, as one of the predominant effects of CHAD is to blind the individual to their own condition.  However, the team used an ingenious approach; they set up a number of locations likely to attract suitable candidates, such as an old cinema in which they only showed films made in Sweden between 1928 and 1953, an organic vegan café and a pop-up shop selling broken pre-war typewriters, photography equipment and bicycle parts.

Tainted evidence

Although the study was able to confirm a strong connection between CHAD and an obscure taste in entertainment and wardrobe, Dr. Barker stressed that the team had been unable to ascertain whether CHAD caused these issues or whether the issues led to CHAD.   One of the UCLan team volunteered to sample some German poetry, embark on a macrobiotic diet and wear hand-distressed skinny jeans for a 6-month period, but by the time it was confirmed that he was a CHAD sufferer, he was claiming that he’d liked these things before he’d begun the trial and, in fact, before anybody else liked them.  This claim skewed the evidence, making it unsuitable for inclusion in the report.

A cure for CHAD?

While not in the remit of the study, UCLan believes it could pave the way for finding a way to control, or even cure, the syndrome, which claims millions of work hours each year, due to ennui and corduroy shortages.  In an unexpected twist, one of the subjects appeared to make a sudden recovery when he accidentally observed footage of himself explaining why he only ever buys music on vinyl.  According to Dr. Barker, the subject was heard to exclaim “What a tosser!”, before buying larger trousers and a smaller coat.  The report is available as a download from the university website and has also been published in The British Journal of Psychology.  In the hope that it may reach those in need of help, UCLan have also allowed the findings to be included in ‘Cucumber’, an arts magazine sold only in upcycling centres throughout the UK.

Why I Can’t Wash the Dishes Tonight

I thought I had today mapped out. ‘Get up at 6’, ‘Quick 5-mile run’ and ‘Write some hilarious jokes that people will pay for’ were just three of the things that I was certain I wouldn’t be doing.  I did, however, expect to collect my sister and go to a meeting at our mother’s care home.

In time, I picked up my sister.   So far, so good.  We arrived at the care home in good time and went into the lounge, an area full of senior citizens, arranged in a vague oval of comfy chairs, like some sort of geriatric Roman amphitheatre but with fewer gladiators and more crocheted rugs.  I looked at the empty chair nearest to my mother’s seat and wasn’t entirely happy to sit on it.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against rubber cushions, per se, but this one had a suspiciously shiny look about it and I was somewhat concerned that a recent occupant may have had what is euphemistically termed ‘an accident’ and not of the ‘just fell off my skateboard’ kind.

“Okay” I thought.  “There’ll be somewhere else.” And I looked for the longed for ‘other vacant seat’ without luck.  My gaze then alighted on a foot stool and, although it’s generally a bad idea for me to attempt to sit on anything low, it seemed infinitely preferable to sitting on the ‘accident’ chair as I had by now mentally christened it.  I walked over and, holding onto a large, but occupied chair, I lowered myself to the foot stool.  It wasn’t what I’d thought.  Yes, it was a foot stool, but no, it was not a sturdy object suitable for use as a seat, because in place of the four stout legs I had assumed were part of its design, was a rudimentary frame topped with a vertically swivelling seat upon which one might rest tired feet at an optimal angle, but not a wide arse … at any angle.

I was instantly flung sideways and, realising I was about to hurtle to the floor, grabbed the (occupied) chair to halt my fall.  In fairness, this tactic worked, but only at the expense of my shoulder, which, unable to take the entire weight of my Hobnob addicted body, simply dislocated, achieving a shape hitherto only seen in shoulders that have featured heavily on programmes such as ’24 Hours in A&E’, ‘An Hour to Save Your Life’ and ‘Cirque Du Soleil: The outtakes’.  In what was probably a really short amount of time, but felt very, very long, my brain asked the question “Are you going to continue holding this chair while your shoulder’s doing … well, THAT, or are you going to just fall on the floor?”  I fell on the floor.  Well, against the chair, containing a reasonably startled old lady who probably thought the entertainment had finally arrived.  I felt my shoulder relocate; not to the country or abroad, just back to the socket.  It was not one of my favourite moments of 2015, although it wasn’t the worst either, sadly.

So, now, sitting on the floor, leaning against a chair, in a lot of pain and being watched by every resident with a clear view of my shenanigans, I quietly said to my sister (with what I feel was remarkable restraint) “I’ve just dislocated my shoulder!”  I’m expecting my ‘Certificate of the Bleedin’ Obvious’ through the post any day now.  As luck would have it, there were painkillers available, not the morphine I would have liked, unfortunately, but better than nothing.  After a brief trip to a different part of the building to load up the mother with crisps and tea, we went back in to the scene of my previous humiliation, only to be told that the meeting wouldn’t be happening.  Good stuff.  My biggest worry is that they’ll expect me to have a slapstick routine prepared for every visit.  I don’t think my joints can cope!