Personalised numberplates, penile enlargement, talking back at computers, ants’ eyesight, a parade of puppies, Latvia’s song and dance festival

23 September 2018

Tuesday’s Times carried the headline ”We won’t let May’s successor unpick Brexit deal, vows Barnier”.  I didn’t know she was going but perhaps Rupert Murdoch knows something we don’t?

Two brothers in Scotland, Ian and David Suttie, both wealthy men, are fighting their way through the courts over their rights to use the jointly-owned numberplate 21 S.  Can you believe it?  The only one I ever saw and liked was HRH 1 Y on a large Rolls Royce parked on a double yellow line just off Parliament Square, except the Y was very very small and what made it so enjoyable was the parking ticket sellotaped onto the windscreen.

Also published this week was an article on penile enlargement.  Apparently, 45,604 such operations were carried out worldwide by members of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in the four years 2011-2015 (though I’m not at all sure “aesthetic” is the right word in this context) despite the fact that the operation makes little difference when a man is standing to attention and the operation risks significant side effects because it involves … aaaarrrggghhh I can’t go on.  They obviously haven’t read the Harry Potter books;  in one of the last books J K Rowling has a woman making a scornful reference to wizards worrying about the grandeur of their wands when what actually matters is what they do with them.

There’s a new theory that children can learn bad habits from computers that talk to you because people shout instructions at them and children get the impression that this is how people talk to each other, so we should always be polite and say “Alexa, I’d be really grateful if you could ring Mum for me when you get a moment.  Thank you very much.”  All that happens in this house is Judy’s Smartphone occasionally says (a propos of nothing) “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you said” and I shout “Bugger off” at it.  Good job we don’t have young children.

Perhaps they should give Alexa an accent.  Call centres in Scotland apparently get much better feedback than those elsewhere because people with Scottish accents are perceived as friendlier and more helpful.  Och aye, hoots mon, Auld Reekie’s dreich the noo.  How am I doing?

The large blue butterfly has staged a good recovery since attempts to protect it by fencing off areas to stop farmers burning the gorse so their sheep can safely graze were found to be counter-productive.  It had been thought that the wild thyme flowers eaten by the larvae were key to their preservation but it turns out the caterpillars live underground in red ants’ nests for ten months each year, producing a chemical that convinces the ants they’re ant grubs.  They then use “smells and noises” (please note I refrain from making the obvious suggestion here) to disguise themselves while feeding on real ant grubs until they pupate and hatch into butterflies in early June.  What this has also proved is that ants don’t have very good eyesight.

Devon has more roads than any other English county, and more hedgerows which is probably not coincidental.  Yes, I know, this raises the question of which county in Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland has more, and I don’t know the answer.

This week Chile celebrated the 208th anniversary of gaining its independence from Spain with a parade of golden retriever puppies.  Ahhhh.

Perhaps next year Latvia will celebrate the 146th anniversary of its first quinquennial Song and Dance Festival (the 26th festival took place earlier this year) with a small gathering of heavily bearded men people clutching a glass of what passes for beer over there and singing a capella works by Rihards Dubra with a finger in one ear.  The audience will, of course, be sitting with fingers in both ears, drinking their beer through straws and wishing they were in Haslemere*.


*          Hilaire Belloc reckoned they sell good beer in Haslemere

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