Category Archives: People
It’s been a crazy sort of week. A really good week but at the end of it I find myself dithering around and at a loss to know what to write about. This is not unusual. But it’s usually because I have too many things to choose from. This time it’s different. This time my mind is a bit like those squares of soft plastic that come in the boxes of stuff you buy from Amazon. And I’m not talking about bubble wrap; that would be interesting, at least you can pop it.
In the past weeks I’ve written about the danger of using mobile phones when driving, public address systems in airports, my deceased cat Eric and his life as a spy, sausages, cows, coastlines and contemporary art. I also love to write about the wacky, mad things people do and strange unknown facts. So, while I get my head together for next week, here are some things I’ve just discovered. They’re the sort of things that brighten up my life and make me smile. The links to the sites where I found them are at the end of this post. So, Einstein couldn’t swim and …
Isaac Newton invented the cat flap
Walt Disney – creator of Micky Mouse – was afraid of mice
The Tory (Conservative) party was founded by a group of Irish Catholic bandits. The name comes from the Irish for outlaw or bandit. They’re certainly living up to their origins.
Virginia Wolfe wrote all her books standing up.
Pigs love Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, except for the Mint Oreo flavour.
There’s a spider named after Harrison Ford.
Goethe could only write if he had an apple rotting in the drawer of his desk.
In 1980 Saddam Hussein was given the key to the city of Detroit.
Elephants purr like cats.
Bats always turn left when they leave their caves.
Tigers don’t just have striped fur, they have striped skin.
The Founder of Pringles was buried in a Pringles can.
This Crazy World We Live In – No. 4
Well, they say it takes all sorts! It certainly does. Clicking around the Interwebs, as the cats call it, I came across a site devoted to the stuff folk collect. And then I found another site. And another. As you do. I’m indebted to all of them, just as I am indebted to the collectors – whether on the ‘almost normal’ end of the spectrum or those who are so far out in the stratosphere that they might have trouble getting back.
There’s navel fluff – oh yes indeed – you’re not going to get a picture of that on this post, look it up! There’s air sick bags; remember this post is subtitled Crazy World. There’s lawnmowers and street signs, mangles and backscratchers. Anything and everything that isn’t bolted to the floor, and even some that is. Here I can only scratch the surface, but I urge you to click the links below and have a good old browse, not to say wallow. That’s if you enjoy the quirky, the weird, the wonderful and the downright odd. If not, I suggest you move swiftly on!
Some strange collections have even been housed in museums, real or virtual. The Toaster Museum, founded by Jens Veerbeck, has over 600 models, many of them rare and most of them rather beautiful. Still on the subject of toast, so to speak, there’s the Burnt Food Museum containing examples of yes, you guessed it, toast but also ‘hash blacks’, incinerated macaroni and all manner of burnt offerings. Not moving too far from a collection of burnt food, the Asphalt Museum has a collection of, that’s right, asphalt. How weird is that. Boasting samples from 6 different countries and 11 states the museum is housed in a real building in a real university – the California State University, Sacramento.
Naturally, given the oddity of some of these collectors, there has to be a collection, if not of bananas, then at least of banana labels. There are also collections of toothpaste tubes, napkins, portraits in toast (yes, you did read that right), airline spoons, bars of soap, locks of celebrities’ hair (spooky) and sugar packets. Among my favourites are shoes – shoes shaped like foxes, horses hooves, boots with ponytails (eh!) and bondage shoes – don’t ask! And to add to the general weirdness, moist towelettes.
It will come as no surprise to hear that at least a few of these collections made it into the Guiness Book of Records. The world’s largest Pokemon collection has been held by a girl in the UK, since 2010, although on a different site that honour is claimed for an American woman. The world’s largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia also made it into the record books. The Happy Meals collection didn’t make it. While not breaking records some collections are so beautifully housed they are a work of art in themselves. Witness the Be@rbricks Collection. For those who haven’t come across them before, be@rbricks are collectible toys designed and produced by the Japanese company MediCom Toy Company. A collaboration between the creatives at Openbox and architects Onion, led to the superbly outrageous ‘Garage of the Bears’ which houses the iconic collection.
Welcome to the weird, wacky and often beautiful world of collections. Here are some links :-
No. 4 Hand Luggage
I note the instructions on the airline’s website. I even go so far as to measure my hand luggage. Better safe than sorry, as they say. What with most of the airlines jumping on the Ryanair bandwagon and charging an exorbitant fee should your hand luggage protrude a millimetre beyond the accepted norm.
I wonder why I bother.
Flying to Malaga to volunteer at a rescue centre, I paid a massive £37 for the privilege of putting a suitcase in the hold. And even that weighed in at less than half of the 20 kg allowance. However, I didn’t have much choice. You need plenty of old clothes and sturdy shoes and wellies if you’re going to be walking, washing and generally cuddling and playing with a whole load of eager and boisterous dogs.
I wouldn’t have minded if everyone played by the rules. They don’t. That being the case I would have expected the airline personnel to take action. They don’t. This is not the first time I have witnessed ground crew turn a blind eye and cabin crew stand by while sweating cheats attempt to hoist ‘ hand baggage’ into the overhead lockers. Said ‘hand baggage’ being easily large enough to contain a large pony or a small giraffe.
On this occasion I flew Monarch, though they are by no means the only culprits. On the return flight I reckoned that 50% of the passengers were hefting so-called cabin baggage that in each instance was only marginally smaller than the case I’d had to pay to put in the hold. And sizing up these passengers, I reckoned it wasn’t that they couldn’t have spared the extra money.
Some people just don’t believe rules apply to them.
One blonde, orange lady had an enormous, pale blue holdall that fitted that description exactly – it held all including, no doubt, a designer kitchen sink. A bearded gentleman wielded a massive rucksack type of container that nearly felled the woman behind him as he manhandled it into the overhead lockers. I’m not talking about a few inches extra here. Nor a few pounds of extra weight.
During the interminable wait at the baggage carrousell there were plenty of mutterings from other law abiding folks as we eyed the lawless ones making their seamless way towards the exits. Hauling their ponies, giraffes and kitchen sinks behind them.
Of course there’s nothing to stop me breaking the rules too. Except. Guess who’d be the one to be picked at random and asked to do the ‘cabin bag test.’ You don’t need to ask!
If you’re of a nervous disposition, step away from the screen. I mean it. Shut down your computer now and step away. However if, like me, you are attracted by all things weird, including strange and unusual deaths, read on. It’s not the death part of it that attracts me; it’s the quirky and strange circumstances. Plus the fact that it raises an illicit giggle where giggles have no place. Like having an urge to laugh at a funeral. You know you shouldn’t. Indeed you don’t want to but somehow you can’t help it.
One of my favourite weird deaths is death by carrot. There’s one real one and one fictional one. You’ll find them in an article I wrote a while ago. The craziest carrot death is in the opening scene of the film ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ where Clive Owen dispatches the baddie with a carrot stick. Sounds unlikely? Well it is a film. In real life the unassuming carrot was also responsible for the death of a man called Basil Brown. A health fanatic, the poor man took it too far with the carrot juice. Having downed gallons of the stuff in a short space of time he ended up bright orange. And dead.
So far, so weird. But there’s more. Before I carry on, for the pedants among us, of which I am definitely one, I hasten to explain that in many of these sad cases death was actually the result of a heart attack, or strangulation or drowning or by breaking your neck by inadvisably jumping off a tall building wearing a Heath Robinson style overcoat-parachute. It was the things that led up to them that were strange. There are so many of them, it’s hard to know where to begin. Death by cactus, by bottle cap, by sheep and by beard. And more, far too many to mention.
In 1982 David Grundman and his mate decided to do a little shooting, with a cactus as the target. The cactus got its revenge; a chunk of it sheared off and crushed him to death. Tennessee Williams, the famous playwright, choked on a bottle top. Poor Betty Stobbs was knocked off her feet by her herd of sheep and pushed over a cliff. Ungrateful creatures – she’d only come to feed them. Hans Steinen grew the longest beard in the world, tripped on it and broke his neck escaping from a fire.
There are enough weird deaths to fill months of blog posts. They come in all guises – romantic, incredible, spooky, and, yes, funny. One of the most romantic sounding deaths is that of Chinese poet Li Po. Apart from being one of the greatest poets in Chinese literature, he also loved a drink. Poor man fell from his boat on the Yangtze River and drowned while trying to embrace the reflection of the moon. That’s one version. Grigori Rasputin’s death is downright weird. The Russian mystic, was reportedly poisoned, shot in the head four times, clubbed, and finally when these failed he was chased into a frozen river.
In 1991, Yooket Paen was walking in her farmyard. She slipped, grabbed a wire. It was live. She was electrocuted and died on the spot. Shortly after her funeral Her sister was out in the farmyard with neighbours, demonstrating how the accident had happened. She too slipped. Grabbed the same wire and she too died. You’d think they would have taped it up or something. That wasn’t just an accident waiting to happen. It had already happened.
General Sedgwick fell in battle during the American Civil War. Shots fired by Confederate sharpshooters caused his men to duck for cover. The Confederates were roughly 1,000 yards away. Sedgwick was disgusted and walked into the open, striding around saying “I am ashamed of you. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Despite this his men continued to cower. So he repeated “I’m ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist …” and fell forward with a bullet hole in his eye. I know it isn’t funny, but … well it is.