Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday 30 July 2010

Another slice of squirrel, Julia?

A few weeks ago I posted on the menace of forty-pound American Lobsters invading British waters and, with selfless patriotism, the valiant JuliaM offered to deal with the interlopers by eating them.

I suggested at the time she might like to apply the same tactics to the ubiquitous grey squirrel, and it looks like other people have been having the same idea. A branch of Budgens has set the cat amongst the pigeons, so to speak, by offering squirrel meat for sale.

This has not pleased the fluffy brigade, who have described the supermarket as profiting from a ‘wildlife massacre’. According to zoologist and veggie lobbyist Juliet Gellatley:

'If this store is attempting to stand out from the crowd by selling squirrel, the only message they are giving out is that they are happy to have the blood of a beautiful wild animal on their hands for the sake of a few quid.'

Er, right.
I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but, carnivore or vegetarian, it seems a little odd to classify the relative morality of meat by the animal’s looks. Presumably venison’s right out, then –"You shot Bambi’s mother!”

Jenny Seagrove goes one better: 'It is unbelievable that our wild grey squirrels are now being killed and packaged up for sale in such high street stores.’

I’m not entirely sure why she has trouble grasping the concept. There may be no long-standing tradition of grey squirrel consumption in Britain, but that’s largely because we didn’t have them until the end of the 19th century.

Had they been here since Norman times, like the humble rabbit, perhaps Ms Seagrove would be rather less starry-eyed about the little pests, instead of railing against the injustice of it all:

'Anyone who cares about wildlife, as I do, should be appalled at Budgens for allowing this. It seems that no animal is to be spared falling victim to such companies' marketing ploys. What gruesome product will be next to grace our food aisles? Blackbird, fieldmouse or mole?'

I can’t wait to find out!

Thursday 29 July 2010

Is that £10,000 in your pocket...?

What do you call an Italian with £10,000 in his underwear? Lacking creativity.

No, it's not a joke; UK Border Officers found the cash when they searched the man before a flight from Belfast to Rome. He was, it seems, 'unable to give a reasonable explanation for carrying the cash'.

Is it me, or does that suggest a deplorable paucity of imagination? I mean, if you intend to board a flight with £10K stuffed into your clothing then surely you'd take the trouble to have some plausible cover story ready.

Readers may recall that the woman caught in Holyhead last May with 26,000 euros stuffed into her bra, possibly in an attempt to foil all but the most determined of pickpockets, claimed the money came from the sale of a business in Ireland.

The BBC is, of course, milking this story for all it's worth under the headline 'Italian's Hidden Assets Uncovered' - About £10,000 in hidden cash was recovered from an Italian man's underwear'. In fact, the cash appears to have been stashed rather less sensationally (but more comfortably) in the man's shorts, pockets and wallet.

The Tavern regulars have been discussing what excuse they might offer if caught in the same compromising situation - suggestions via comments would be very welcome.

Monday 26 July 2010

Under Siege...

...or how I nearly made a starring appearance in Mark Wadsworth's blog.

"I know you're in there..."

The remote and beautiful glen where Clan Macheath take their holidays – reputedly once the hiding place of Bonnie Prince Charlie* – has changed little in the past thirty years, save for the recent introduction of a herd of cows.

In the best Highland fashion, the beasties roam free throughout the glen, grazing on the hillsides, wading picturesquely in the river and, when the mood takes them, completely blocking the single-track winding road.

And last week their lives were brightened by the arrival of a large bull (pictured above).

Since we had no plans to go out by car, the fact that the cows and their calves had taken up residence on the track leading to our rented cottage was not a major problem. By the second morning, however, they had surrounded the building, lining up around the perimeter and searching for weak points.

At this point, they were joined by the bull, who was clearly spoiling for a fight. They pushed at the gate, barged up against the garden fence and finally knocked the telephone pole askew, disconnecting our only link to the outside world.

So there we were, in the best tradition of horror films, totally isolated and the object of overwhelming interest to a herd of increasingly insistent cattle. And there we might be still, had we not discovered the reason for this unwanted attention sitting next to an open upstairs window.

Cattle are naturally curious and might well inspect any newcomers to the glen, but we had inadvertently provided an added attraction in the shape of the Urchin’s malfunctioning laptop. The fan had inexplicably begun to make an intermittent low-frequency noise uncannily similar in pitch to the bull’s testosterone-laden bellowing.

Essentially we had introduced to the glen the bovine equivalent of Tom Jones in his heyday, causing no small flutter among the cows. And naturally the bull was jealous. Since the wrath of an Urchin sans laptop is as nothing to the undivided attention of an angry bull, the problem was easily solved, but it provided us with a salutary lesson in the unpredictable clash of technology and animal instincts.

The Scottish establishment has backed the re-introduction of free-roaming cattle to the Highland Glens as a return to the traditional farming methods of a previous golden age. However, these cows are not the photogenic, plodding shaggy beasties of old but purpose-bred hybrid beef cattle crossed with an Iberian mountain strain – bigger, heavier, grumpier and far quicker on their feet.

This same herd had, it turned out, already brought the local village to a standstill more than once, bypassing a cattle grid, scrambling down a steep bank and walking down of the glen to block the road completely and deprive the village shop and tea-room of custom for several hours.

The locals we met told us that this summer has seen a sad dearth of tourists away from the major attractions. If Scottish landowners want to encourage visitors to explore the Highlands and Islands and bring a much-needed boost to the local economy, they will need to ensure that, at least in the breeding season, tourists and cattle are kept safely apart.

*Although if the legends are to be believed, during his 72 days on the run he managed to hide in practically every cave, bothy and farmhouse in the Western Highlands.

Thursday 15 July 2010

The tracks on the tank go round and round...

From the Telegraph Scottish edition:

Armed forces chiefs angrily denied SNP claims last night that they are dispatching soldiers into primary schools and nurseries to "soften up" children for recruitment.

Christine Grahame, a senior MSP [...] suggested a desperate MoD is deliberately targeting young children in an attempt to boost its "flagging recruitment targets".

It seems that, like vampires, the armed forces have to be invited over the threshold if they are to enter schools to talk to pupils. Miss Grahame claims that if no written invitation can be produced, the forces must have approached the school uninvited as 'part of a drip, dip, drip approach to securing more recruits'.

One wonders what her response would be should, say, the coastguard or the local council offer to talk to pupils about the work they do. Meanwhile, she's been a very busy body indeed, tabling Freedom of Information requests to Scotland's 32 councils.

Extracts from the documents, provided by Miss Grahame, appear to show the Army invited Scottish Borders Council to send pupils to attend a work experience programme.

Oh noes! And that's not all: a submariner married to a member of staff visited a nursery along with other parents who came in to talk to children about their jobs. Foolishly, he did so on a verbal invitation and so is unable to present an authorisation in triplicate to the redoubtable Miss Grahame.

"These latest documents show that not only is the recruitment strategy aimed at children in primary schools, but that representatives of the armed forces are now regularly going into nursery schools too."

Quick! We must stop this underhand recruitment process before the nation's four-year-olds take the Queens's shilling and march away!

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Oh, ye'll tak' the high road...

In a bid to escape the Mandy-fest that will doubtless saturate the media later this week, I'm off to the ancestral lands of Clan MacHeath to spend a week or so in a remote Highland bothy with no links to the outside world.

Normal service will be resumed when I get back - plus the occasional bonus post if I can find a working computer in the vicinity.

I don't normally publish a pick of posts - I'm assuming that when readers get round to Newgate News they've already checked out the best blogs - but just this once, in case you missed them first time round, here are a few pieces I've particularly enjoyed recently:

Anna Raccoon waxes lyrical on how a quest for curtain material became a cross-cultural odyssey (27th June)

JuliaM gives her signature treatment to a journalist's 'terrifying ordeal' at the paws of an urban fox (19th June)

Mrs Rigby gives an illustrated talk on the Vuvuzela and its relatives (14th June)

Demetrius has A Grand Day Out at the seaside and decides not to invade France (5th May)

Gloria Smudd muses on her son's sixteenth birthday (26th April)

I'll leave you with the welcome news that Plato is back in circulation and will, I hope, resume blogging soon.

Monday 12 July 2010

The Flying Dutchman of Shoeburyness

Remember this from last May?
A lost sailor has had to be rescued after running out of fuel circling a small island when he thought he was sailing around the UK coast.
And this?
The 32ft Myra Two motor cruiser had to be guided to safety by coastguards yesterday after its captain ran aground as he attempted to sail out of the River Thames. It turned out the hapless mariner and his passenger had no maps, emergency flares or radio - and had been using a car sat-nav system to help guide them through the treacherous waters.
(Both courtesy of the eagle-eyed JuliaM)

Looks like rescuing the terminally incompetent in the Thames estuary is a full-time job these days, what with having to pop out every few minutes to retrieve some half-wit who hasn’t grasped the basics of seamanship. And last week was no exception:
Coastguards were first called out 40 minutes after the captain of the 28ft motor cruiser left Sheerness, bound for London. He entered the Thames Estuary and crossed the main shipping lanes, ending up near Southend-on-Sea - less than five nautical miles from his starting point.

The coastguard helped point him and his companion in the right direction but the bungling seafarer became 'confused' and ended up sailing the boat four miles west to Shoeburyness.
The coastguard was called out for a second time and explained (through gritted teeth, one imagines) exactly how to get to London.
The wandering skipper then managed to ground his boat just off the coast near Shoeburyness. Again the coastguard was called out and two lifeboats were sent to help - towing the boat back to Queenborough Harbour in Sheerness, where he started from.

The coastguard then issued the captain with 'safety advice' before sending him on his way - on foot.
And that’s not all – Kent lifeboats rescued five children blown out to sea in two untethered inflatable dinghies on a windy day last weekend, while Sheerness lifeboat had a busy day on the 4th, starting at 12.30am with two men in the speedboat ‘Bad Boys’ (tells you all you need to know, really) who had run out of petrol.

JuliaM asks in her post "Has sailing become fashionable amongst the intellectually-challenged?" A glance through the week's news would certainly suggest so - and the plight of the children in their unattended dinghies suggest the incompetent are breeding too.

Children’s books used to do a good line in cautionary tales of the hazards of unintentional seafaring – anyone else out there remember 'Piggly plays Truant' or 'We Didn't Mean to go to Sea'? – but that has presumably fallen by the wayside as irrelevant to the 21st century; the likes of Arthur Ransom would be considered far too old-fashioned and middle class these days.

With traditional seagoing skills lost and forgotten and the all-must-have-prizes generation unaware of their own shortcomings, there's an accident out there waiting to happen.

You may have been told at school that there's no such thing as failure, but, when you're blundering about in the shipping lanes with a freighter bearing down on you at speed, I think you may find there is.

'Feeding the public interest monster'

Did we really ask for it? Was the media extravaganza of last week's Moat-a-thon purely a response to public demand?

While the red-tops revel in the 'human interest' aspects of the story, the more restrained papers have been questioning the motives behind the media free-for-all, and it's not a pretty sight. I'd like to believe that Barbara Ellen is wrong when she says the news media are 'merely feeding the "public interest" monster' (H/T JuliaM) but I'm not sure I can.

Some years ago I walked into a newsagent's in a nearby town and found a small crowd, most of whom were sporting mullets and bulging tattoos, milling about in aimless bovine expectation. Suddenly, with cries of "It's here!", they all converged excitedly on a newly-opened bundle of magazines.

Curious to find out the source of the feeding-frenzy, I risked a glance over the heavily-tattooed shoulder of one of the women; she was avidly leafing through one of those build-it-up-weekly magazines with a title something like 'World's Most Evil Serial Killers - part 1 of 50', complete with detailed maps, photographs and crime scene dossiers.

Doubtless she and her fellow shoppers watched last week's constant news coverage with keen interest, perhaps fortified by the occasional beer to enhance their enjoyment. In the lexicon of her mind, Rothbury is now synonymous with the last hours of Raoul Moat, played out for her entertainment on her television screen.

The 'public interest monster' is an unhealthy beast, addicted to titillation and vicarious violence - give it a fix and it will beg for more. Today's Sun leads with the story that Moat's 3-year-old daughter doesn't know he's dead - effortlessly combining sensationalism with mawkish sentimentality in a completely unjustifiable disclosure.

It's the downside of the free press - a willingness to take things so far beyond the boundaries of taste and journalistic integrity that you feel some of the worst offending papers should feature a notice at the end saying 'Now wash your hands'.

I'm not suggesting that regulation is the answer, but I should very much like to see tabloid editors exercising more restraint and making room for a world where Hungerford is principally known as a pleasant market town in Berkshire, Dunblane is famous as the former home of Andy Murray and Rothbury is celebrated for its excellent bakery.

Update: Anna Raccoon has tackled a similar topic with her customary brilliance.

Thursday 8 July 2010

Will Moat make a break for the border?

'This has gone too far' - the words of Paul Stobbart, father of Raoul Moat's former partner.

And he's right in so many ways - do we really need this constant media frenzy dropping gobbets of pointless information into the public's gaping maw? At least the BBC have removed from their news website the invitation to 'Watch the hunt for Moat LIVE'.

Oddly enough, the BBC files this story and the police operation exclusively under the heading 'England News'. If the Met are involved - as last night's reports said - then is there any help coming from Lothian and Borders?

Rothbury is only about 12 miles from the Scottish border as the crow flies, yet while Northumbria Police's website carries live updates of the manhunt and contact phone numbers, Lothian and Borders' homepage has only a warning to watch out for a festival tickets scam.

Once upon a time, the forces cooperated fully; in the 1980's, when a child went missing from Cornhill, a village close to the border, search parties were immediately organised to cover both sides of the Tweed in a joint operation coordinated by radio and telephone.

But thing have changed since then, as residents of Carham, Northumberland have found to their cost. The nearest ambulance is based 6 miles up the road in Kelso, but that's in Scotland - anyone falling ill in Carham must wait for an English ambulance to come from Berwick, 17 miles - 27 minutes - away.

With ambulances, traffic news, flood alerts and local information all on different websites, computers have ensured that the geographical line dividing England and Scotland is more solid now than it has ever been before.

One just has to hope that, should Moat decide to make a break for the Border, it doesn't work to his advantage.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Happy shrimp come out to play

Typical. You wait ages for a crustacean story then two come along at once. This time it's shrimps, who are, it seems, so whacked-out on Prozac they've lost their instincts for self-preservation.

'Portsmouth University researchers looked at the effect of the anti-depressant fluoxetine, also known as Prozac, on the behaviour of shrimps. The shrimps are widely found in British coastal waters, close to treatment plants where the water may be contaminated with Prozac.

The researchers found that the crustaceans, which are usually happiest when hiding under rocks or clumps of seaweed, were drawn out into the open. It is thought that just as in people, Prozac is altering levels of the brain chemical serotonin. But, while in people this lifts mood, in shrimps, it draws them towards light - and into harm's way.'

Despite the media reaction, eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that we are looking at hypothetical conclusions drawn from what was presumably a lab experiment - there's no hard evidence to back it up in the wider natural habitat, at least as yet; just a lot of 'ifs' and maybes'.

But it's a worrying business contemplating what may be pouring into the seas - even if these researchers are wrong and the shrimps are still morose and depressed, they are likely to be getting a potent cocktail including, among other things, oestrogen and caffeine (sounds like the ideal drink for hen nights in Portsmouth - perhaps they could call it 'Sex and the City?').

'Previous studies have shown that caffeine is released into our waterways after surviving the sewage treatment process. The hormones from the contraceptive Pill and HRT have been blamed for feminising fish, leading to male fish producing eggs.'

According to Marine zoologist Alex Ford, 'Effluent is concentrated in river estuaries and coastal areas, which is where shrimps and other marine life live - this means that shrimps are taking on the excreted drugs of whole towns.'

Trouble is, all that effluent provides just the sort of nutrient-rich environment shrimp and shellfish love. Seafood salad, anyone?

Where were you on July 7th 2005?

The commemoration of this event, five years on, has been pushed into the background by the media frenzy surrounding Raoul Moat, and it's possible the victims will go unremembered by many* this year.

From a purely personal perspective, however, the day is unforgettable. When the news broke, I was standing in front of a roomful of people, about to make a speech.

I was leaving a job I was good at, working with people I liked and respected, purely because of the new Director. This person's opinionated self-importance and bullying determination to enforce to the letter every pointless government regulation finally made unemployment seem a more attractive option.

And this was my chance for revenge - a brilliant oration (I'd been composing it for weeks) - stopping just short of open accusation while leaving the hearers in no doubt of my motives for resigning and the malicious activities of the Director.

I'd got as far as 'Thank you all very much...' when the door opened and someone brought the news that a bomb had gone off in London. Everyone dispersed at once - the next few hours must have been much the same in many places, as people gathered round screens or made frantic telephone calls.

There was an odd sense of déjà-vu about the whole experience. On my first day in that job, the planned introductions to colleagues were cancelled and replaced by a prayer meeting - the date was September 12th, 2001.

I suppose the moral of this post, if there is one, is that however bad things get at work there are far worse things that could happen; when they do, it should be a reminder to the rest of us to keep a sense of perspective.

*By many but not all.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

The delicious answer to global warming...

...is a curry.

While you are constantly nagged about the size of your carbon footprint, there are millions of livestock out there merrily emitting methane to their hearts’ content.

Every day, Britain’s 10 million-odd cows produce about 500 litres of methane per head – or rather per bottom, with around 30 million sheep pumping out 20 litres each. That’s an awful lot of a potent (and smelly) greenhouse gas.

And now scientists have an answer. After much experimentation, they have determined that coriander, turmeric and cumin have impressive anti-bacterial properties, reducing the amount of methane produced in an animal's gut, with obvious environmental benefits – at least for those in close proximity.

There's nothing new in the use of these and other plant remedies for stomach complaints - even in the pharmacy-ridden developed world you can buy mint-based remedies, and gripe water contains a decoction of dill or fennel seeds (in my early childhood, it contained 3.6% alcohol as well, but that's another story).

The newsworthiness of this revelation will doubtless cause much amusement in the parts of the world still using these spices medicinally – in fact, there is much to suggest that their inclusion in curries is mainly for their contribution to digestive health*.

Sadly the spices in question would simply be added to animal feed so we shan’t be treated to the sight of Daisy’s vegetable korma with extra poppadoms being delivered to a farm near you.

*If they substantially reduce intestinal gas, it rather begs the question of what our town centre venues would be like without their inclusion in the post-pub curry – and how many rugby players would be facing embarrassing trips to the burns unit.

Quote of the day - Ooh, Matron!

"I cannot claim to have seen the final picture - as I understand, these things are no longer claimable on parliamentary expenses."
Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt, referring to the discovery that an NHS hospital had 'generated substantial income' by hiring out a closed hospital ward to a company making a 'big budget porn film'.

Update: You'll find a rather more grown-up reaction to this story from the Quiet Man.

Monday 5 July 2010

Mandy's million-pound free-for-all

You know those stories where a wronged woman takes spectacular revenge on an unfaithful partner? Cuts the sleeves off his suits, or sells his car for £10, or gives away the contents of his wine cellar?

According to the Sunday Times*, that’s pretty much how Peter Mandelson spent the run-up to the election, with ‘spent’ being the operative word.

During the final year of the Labour government, Mandelson’s department ran up liabilities worth hundreds of millions, promising money that technically didn’t exist and overruling opposition from civil servants including his permanent secretary.

So was it a last-ditch attempt to buy votes – promising Vauxhall £270m to keep open a plant in a Labour marginal, for instance – or a vicious revenge on an ungrateful electorate? Or was it, as the Times has it, just a straightforward scorched earth policy?

Back in my Labour activist days, the accepted wisdom was that exercising political power was only half the battle; it was also essential to sabotage the activities of the other side, in power or out of it – hence the vilification of Frank Field for his unorthodox belief that serving the public is his primary concern.

Now there’s to be a Treasury investigation and report into this affair, while Mandelson is preparing to publish his version of events in his forthcoming memoirs. The two should make for interesting comparison in the months ahead.

*Paywall - no link. And a caveat - I haven't seen this story anywhere else, although the fact that the short article was credited to three journalists may mean there's more to come. The BBC, meanwhile, is concentrating on the cuts to school buildings funding.

Los gánsteres de la colina de lavanda

Are they keen on Ealing comedies in the Colombian jungle? I only ask because the tactics of one smuggling gang suggest they’ve been spending their evenings watching Alec Guinness & co transforming stolen bullion into souvenir statuettes.

The replica World Cup trophy found in a package destined for Madrid contains 24lb of cocaine crafted into, it has to be said, a rather crude and slightly lopsided facsimile – one imagines Carlos painstakingly scraping and prodding it, muttering darkly that ‘sculpture’s much more difficult than it looks and if Diego thinks he can do better he’s welcome to try’.

Mind you, they’re not lacking in resourcefulness in the Colombian underworld – at least if the other discovery made this week is anything to go by. A hundred-foot long home-made submarine, complete with conning tower, periscope and air-conditioning suggests an impressive degree of organisation and ingenuity.

It all has the makings of a classic film - except for the nature of its purpose. But just think – if all this ability could be harnessed into another money-making industry based on escaping reality for a couple of hours at a time, Bogotá could one day become the movie-making capital of the world.

Update: Of course, if cocaine were universally legalised, they'd be out of business and looking for other work. Concidentally, Thaddeus J. Wilson has posted on that very topic today at Anna Raccoon.

Sunday 4 July 2010

Hey, kids, y'all want some ink?

Looking back through the archives, I realise it’s been over a year since we last had a tattoo story, so here, to celebrate 4th July, is one from the other side of the pond.
A northwest Georgia couple arrested for giving six of their children homemade tattoos say they didn't do anything wrong. The kids, they say, wanted the tattoos to be like Mom and Dad.
Aaah, bless!
"I'm their mother," Patty Jo Marsh said. "Shouldn't I be able to decide if they get one?"
Well, no, at least not according to State law in Georgia, where both unlicensed tattooing and the tattooing of minors are illegal.
Marsh and husband Jacob Edward Bartels were arrested late last year after the biological mother of some of the children found that markings on their hands wouldn't wash off.
So much in that one phrase –‘ the biological mother of some of the children...’, especially as this was nearly a month later.
Five of their six children, ages 10 to 17, received small cross tattoos on their hands. Another child had "mom and dad" lettered on a hand.
Which 'mom and dad', I wonder (see above)? And crosses? Isn’t that taking ‘bearing witness’ a bit too far? Still, I suppose it saves paying $9.99 for a pendant from Wal-Mart’s Jewelry of Faith [sic] range.
Police described the home-made tattoo gun as a plastic pen with a needle made from a guitar string that was connected to an electric motor.
Yee-haw! Tattoos, religion and redneck DIY – this story’s got it all!

Saturday 3 July 2010

Attack of the forty-pound lobsters

Be afraid. Be very afraid. There’s something lurking in the waters off Selsey.

Scientists say British lobsters are threatened by the appearance of homarus americanus – known to fishermen as the great big bastard Yank lobster - which can weigh up to three stone.

These monsters can carry a disease – spread by cannibalism – which can kill their weaker European cousins and are far more aggressive than the home-grown gammarus variety (presumably that’s why the lobster fishermen of Maine have such a tough reputation).

And they didn’t stray into English waters by accident. Fishermen have found only adult specimens, and only in one location. Scientists believe that they were bought at fish markets or restaurants and released into the wild by persons unknown.

You can picture the scene; misty-eyed animal rights activists save up to purchase a massive imported lobster, then release it into the sea – probably with cries of ‘Swim, little one, swim’ - before heading off to celebrate with a cup of fair-trade chamomile tea.

For weeks they'll be patting themselves on the back - it was awesome! Like 'Free Willy', only spikier - and congratulating themselves on their gift to Mother Nature. Meanwhile their protégé happily sets about cannibalising every homarus gammarus it can find and wrecking the local ecosystem.

One can only hope that the next one gives them a very nasty nip indeed.

Thursday 1 July 2010


Back in October 2008, Eric Pickles said a Conservative government would re-instate weekly refuse collections. Well, Eric, get a move on!

It was the blackbird that alerted me. Time after time, I found him sitting near the dustbins with his beak full, looking decidedly pleased with himself. And well he might be; in addition to a sheltered nest site and a bird-bath, it appears the Tavern garden now offers him a fast-food outlet.

Since those eco-minded types at the council delivered our kitchen waste caddy, we have dutifully put all our food scraps into bio-degradable bags and thence into the brown wheelie-bin, to be carted off for recycling - no bin-liners or chemicals allowed.

Trouble is, they empty the bin once a fortnight. And despite washing the bin out two weeks ago, I discovered today* that we have acquired livestock in the shape of several hundred extremely agile maggots busy re-enacting the Great Escape - hence the happy blackbird.

It's not beyond the wit of man (or woman) to see that bi-weekly food waste collections may be acceptable in winter but when the thermometer creeps up past 25C they leave much to be desired. So come on Cameron &Co - let's have some action before the plague of flies descends on us all.

*Bleurgh - noise made while violently vomiting into one or more person's shoes (Urban Dictionary), which pretty well sums it up.

Update: Seems I'm not the only one having maggot problems, if the experience of these air passengers is anything to go by. Forget 'Snakes on a Plane' - if you want to see true horror, try maggots.