An August Presence

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014

New readers: the e-pistles of St Paul, the self-appomted saint, are intended as a pathetic substitute for the paper-and-envelope mail (post) few of us receive any more.They circulate to more than 200 e-mail recipients and are viewed by uncounted millions on the website where four years’ worth are archived for insomniacs (and where you might find your OWN NAME). The good news is that the e-pistles are free and generally non-fattening and are enlivened, indeed sustained, by the input of those it features, mocks and generally is disrespectful to, and but which I should not a sentence end a with preposition. Send copy but not too far too much too big enough. For.

Saintly PS We love reminiscences. Send yours and become a published author!

E-pistle of St Paul 1039 aug 22 14

If you build it, they will come: There’s news from Pew Research that robotic sex partners will ‘become commonplace’ by 2025, so it could mean you won’t need dating services, just a credit card to buy your very own robostitute. Experts say the ‘bots won’t be as intelligent as humans (who cares?) but they’ll look, move and feel like the real thing and they won’t nag, get headaches or occupy make you lie in the wet spot. (Bye, Slack Alice, Jeffrey will miss you). They’re just one part of a bigger story: robots will be doing all our jobs, not just those of workers in the sex industry. We’ll see self-driving cars, robots who deliver our groceries, wash our windows, mow the lawn (I want one of those!) and all the other drudge things humans have to do for themselves.

It could bring on a Workapocalypse as first, blue-collar, then professional workers are made redundant. Will we welcome that? Hard to say.The robots could be a boon or a menace to society. However, the saint notes that a pioneering robot was very well received this week as he hitchhiked his way across Canada. A talking robot with a bucket-like body and limbs covered in pool noodles (he wears yellow Wellies, too) left Nova Scotia a month ago and independently hitch- hiked his way to the Pacific. Child sized, HitchBOT can stand up tall so traffic can see him, and has a car seat attached to his torso so drivers can fasten him in place with seat belts. Yes, he talks, and he cites Wikipedia for conversational local knowledge.

A research team from McMaster U monitored his travels by GPS but he travelled alone, was not abused. Drivers decided where to pick him up and leave him. He communicates verbally, has a sense of direction and can be recharged through his onboard solar panels or by being plugged into a car’s cigarette lighter. En route, he attended a powwow, wet his boots in Lake Superior and crashed a wedding, where he told the bride:”I like to make friends.” Now we’re back to sex.

We’ve been enduring some hot weather here ( to 101degF) and my saintly thoughts turned to snow, icy slopes and our early days of skiing. Early days are about all there were, as the pastime did not catch on with this member of the beatified. It was all such a fuss. We’d drive four or five hours to the Sierra Nevada, kit ourselves out with rented skis and boots that hurt my ankles, plough to the resort, wait in line for ages, ski downhill for five minutes and spend another age getting back to the top of the slope for another all-too-brief descent. I’d rather ride a bike. I also found that most California skiers are more snobbish, even, than the French and spend their time in the lodge assessing each others’ hair, clothing and gear rather than actually sliding about on the cold white stuff.

I think my personal best day skiing was in a snowstorm when Kelvin Jones (cheerfully and unfashionably outfitted in khaki ex-SAS something) and I spent an afternoon on near-empty trails pretending to be Heroes of Telemark, although I don’t suppose those chaps used to stop themselves by tackling the nearest tree, or travelled hundreds of yards on their backsides down some iced-up,experts-only black route.

Still, Claire and Rachel enjoyed it (and were instantly much more competent than the ski-saint) and one went on to a considerable skill level as a snowboarder. Jennie dislikes cold, so she would have been happier if water froze at say, 75degF, and after the incident on day one at ski school when she skied over the tips of a line of seven waiting pupils and knocked us all down like a row of skittles, she resolved to avoid snowslopes when possible.

We did try cross-country skiing in Oregon, and have some sets of snow shoes, which are handy if you find a pressing need to go walking in wintry woods, so there’s some hope, but not a lot. Still, it’s nice to think cold when the thermometer is bulging red at the top.

Speaking of bulges, the saint has heartbrokenly discovered (knowledge can be a cruel thing) that he had been struggling uphill for decades when he thought it was downhill. Here’s the facts: the spinning thing called centripetal force means that the earth bulges around its mid-section. That is, it’s fatter in the middle, so is not completely round. OK, cool with that, but for years I’ve jested that riding my bike from north to south means going downhill. Now, I’m stunned to learn that actually, I’ve been riding UP hill. No wonder it was difficult. I may need to go and lie down to consider all this.

Congratulations again – is it really a year since the last lot? – to Mary May, Jennie’s aunt. Next week (30th) she’ll celebrate her 101st birthday, another milestone in a life during which she’s lived through two world wars, three marriages (including the same man twice), four monarchs, 19 prime ministers from Asquith to Cameron, and a life lived through the entire Ages of Automobile, Flight, Space and Technology. When her husband was an overseas government officer, she founded and took the first Nigerian track team to the Commonwealth Games. When the Olympic champion Sebastian Coe went into politics, she helped him become Minister for Sport. And when she found that the former prime minister Harold Wilson wanted to buy the house next door to hers in Cornwall, she moved out. Happy Birthday, Aunt Mary, from all the e-pistle readers and one self-appointed saint.

News from the past: long-ago Nat Enq editor Richard Baker surfaces in Palm Springs. Says Ken Potter: “Richard moved from Cincinnati to PS permanently (he’d had a getaway villa there since before joining NE) at least 10 years ago. He’s become a ‘foster dad’ to his nephew Dusty (late sister’s daughter’s son), helping him with college, etc.” Also back on the screen, London Boy John South, now an Angeleno. John was probably the NE’s first staff reporter (circa 1971) and would have made a lovely vicar, with his innocuous, wondering, questioning manner. And he always landed the big stories with it…

Here’s Southie with a Robin Williams tale: “In the mid 70’s a bunch of Enquirer hacks were drinking at the Comedy Store, on Sunset Blvd., and were blown away by a young unknown comedian. He told hilarious jokes in an English accent so good (even used “getting pissed” in the British context) that we were sure he was a Brit. When we talked to him afterwards, we found out he was an American and, when we told him who we worked for, he asked if there was any chance we could do a story on him and advance his career. We had to explain that we only did stories on established stars, not promising up-and-comers.
It was about a year later that “Mork and Mindy” was introduced and we found the comedian we had been drinking with was Robin Williams.
He had told me he ran track in school so, when I did a childhood (story) on him, I was able to use that for a Mork-and-Mindy-type anecdote, on how, in the middle of a race, he would disconcert his opponents by suddenly blurting out jokes in a variety of accents.”

Fred Wehner says police have discovered ‘a large amount of material’ in a house owned by Cliff Richard. Says Freddy:”Let’s hope it’s only child porn and not new music.” The only other printable bon mot he sent about the man he calls The Clifter was: “His house was searched by police. Apparently they were looking for The Young Ones.”

Ever-helpful Ken Hudson has some handy household tips for us (hey, he didn’t get his ship’s captain’s license for nothing!) Samples:


Sorry about the caps, he wasn’t shouting, but I could not be bothered to re-type .Lee Harrison, please also note. It’s hard to read about the lovely jubbly food specials at the Blue Anchor, Delray, when you cap it all up. Just saying.

Graham Lawrence offers the tale of the wealthy circus folk who wanted to adopt a child. First they had to convince the social workers that their accomms were suitable, so they produced photographs of their luxurious caravan, half of which has been converted into a nursery. Next up was educational support. The couple showed that they’d hired an Oxford don to tutor the child in everything from Mandarin to neurosurgery. Health? “We have a fulltime nanny who’s qualified as a doctor and nutritionist.” At last, the social workers gave their approval.

“What age child are you seeking?” they asked. “Oh,” said the couple. “It doesn’t matter so long as it fits into the cannon.”

Rounding out our famed collection of dusty old jokes, Linda Knight gives the kiss of life to the tale of the small town courtroom in the Deep South where a grandmotherly lady has just taken the stand. The prosecuting attorney smiles at her and says: “Mrs Jones, you know who I am, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she says in a clear voice. “You’re Clarence Ferrar, you’re a cheating lawyer and you’re a great disappointment to me. When I was your teacher, you were a lazy, idle, no-good boy with bad habits and a foul mouth and you have not got the brains to realize you’ll never be anything more than a paper-pusher.”

The attorney, shaken, has no response, so he points to the defence attorney:”And, do you know that gentleman?” he stammers.

“Indeed I do,” she says. “He’s Michael Mahon, and he was just as bad a pupil as you. He never did amount to much, he lied and pilfered, cheated at exams and he grew up to be a sponging, feckless disgrace to his parents and himself. He cheats on his wife with the postmistress and he claims welfare for three illegitimate kids she doesn’t know about. Certainly, I know you both.”

The judge leaned forward from his bench and quietly called the counsellors to him. In a low voice, he said:”If either of you two knuckleheads ask her if she knows me, I’m sending you both to the gas chamber.”

E-pistle 1038 Divas and despots. Filed Aug 15 ’14.

Once again, an alpha reporter makes the splash: (Byline below).

“The so-sad death of Robin Williams conjured up an old memory for me.

“Back in the late 70s, when a network produced a runaway hit show, the Enquirer would jump on the bandwagon and run a “lookalike” contest, with the winner being the person who most resembled the star of the hit show. Then an Enquirer reporter would fly the winner to a town most like the setting for the show — and watch people go crazy over the visiting “stars”. It had worked in small towns all over America.

“Mork and Mindy fitted the contest category perfectly and from thousands of entries the editors selected two people who looked most like the Robin Williams and Pam Dawber characters. We flew them into LA and dressed them like they appeared in the show. All I had to do was let the crazy guy from Ork and his girlfriend loose … on Hollywood.

“Mork looked a treat in his zany Robin Williams outfit and together he and the MIndy lookalike seemed pretty convincing as they set out to conquer Tinseltown. But after three days there was a severe shortage of the “wow” the Enquirer required. The photographer and I had taken them to every Hollywood landmark and studio, but our Mork and Mindy barely rated a glance, never mind a demand for autographs or photos.

“By now my editor in Lantana was getting worried — never a comfortable feeling for a reporter. We were on the brink of having to admit failure when I decided to take Mork and Mindy on a final stroll down Rodeo Drive. But again … not a flicker of recognition. We regrouped for a much needed beer or three at a restaurant at the bottom of Rodeo Drive and decided, that was it. ‘Fess up to the disaster, put Mork and Mindy back on their planes home, and head back to Lantana.

“Then … as we were leaving the restaurant, the photographer and Mork and Mindy ahead of me, I suddenly noticed a man sitting at an outdoor table do a double-take as they passed. Not only that, but the man was Jack Lemmon. I stopped Mork and Mindy and the photographer on the sidewalk and went back. “Mr Lemmon,” I said, “I wonder if you could help us.” To my amazement he didn’t tell me to get lost, but put down the racing paper he’d been using to study his horse bets — and listened to my sorry story. “Mr Lemmon,” I finally pleaded, “if you could just repeat that double take for the photographer …” “Sure,” he said, “I love that show — especially Robin Williams.” Back came Mork and Mindy, and the photog snapped a wonderful shot of Jack Lemmon, eyebrows raised, his face a perfect picture of shock as they strolled past him.

“Story saved, thanks to Jack Lemmon and his appreciation of Robin Williams.”

by David Wright

The last e-pistle’s collection of slang attracted responses from opposite ends of the earth. First up is Mary Kline who shared a confidence from Cork, Ireland. “We used say “Up and down like a prossie’s knickers.” while Dave Anson, inverted DownUnder, offered this: ” Building trade parlance inquiring about a sacked worker. “Where’s Bill?” Reply: “Oh he Robinson Crusoe’d.” “Robinson Crusoe’d?” “Yeah, Finished up Friday.” Or “Where’s Bill?” Reply: “He got a DCM on Friday.” “A DCM?” “Yeah. Don’t Come Monday.” (Brits also know the term as a (military) Distinguished Conduct Medal). And, says Dave: “Friday is known as POETS day. Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday.”

Dave adds: “I recall having the piss taken out of me as an apprentice, when the foreman settled down for lunch, full of expectations of what culinary delights awaited him within his ‘nosebag’ (lunch box). “Let’s see what we have today”, says he, feigning excited anticipation, only to follow with…….. “Effing Hell! Peanut Bloody Butter Sandwiches Again!*#@!” and he slammed the lunch box shut. Naive Dave had to offer the suggestion. “Why don’t you ask your wife for something different?” His reply, with a wink and a smile to me was,……”I cut my own lunch.”

“Oh the joys of being an apprentice. I use to take a hard boiled egg in my lunch box, until someone substituted it with an unboiled egg. It made a mess on my leg as I tapped it on my knee to crack the shell. Gotcha! All in good fun I suppose.” The saint recalls fellow apprentices being told to find a ‘glass hammer’ or a ’round tuit’ and being passed, bewildered, from department to department in futile search…

Steer struck: here’s a four minute vid that made me do the LOL thing. A halfway bad trombonist gathers a cowd. Thanx to El Jefe Joffe for the link and to Rachel Williams for ID’ing the music: Lorde’s “Royals.”

Sure, it’s a chestnut, but as Fred Wehner says, wives tend to like this story: “In a dark and hazy room, peering intently into a crystal ball, the Gypsy mystic delivered extremely grave news: “There’s no easy way to tell you this,” she said. “So I’ll just be blunt. Prepare yourself to be a widow. Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year.”

“Visibly shaken and with tears welling up in her eyes, Laura stared at the woman’s lined face, then at the single flickering candle, then down at her hands.
She brushed away the tears, took a few deep breaths to compose herself, and , to stop her mind from racing. She simply had to know.
She met the fortune teller’s gaze, steadied her voice and asked: “Will I be acquitted?”

Acquittal wasn’t in my mind when the latest communication from the US immigration non-service jokesters arrived this week. Back in February, we trekked to Portland (250 miles r/trip) to get our fingerprints and photographs taken because we had to renew our legal residents’ status. No, the local sheriffs’ dept couldn’t do prints, it had to be on the migras’ own electronic machine, for efficiency. The operator took Jennie’s dabs twice, to be sure, but a month or so later the FBI came back to say they were unreadable and we had to go back to Portland and do it all over. At least this time we didn’t have to pay the $800 fee again and as there was only one of us affected we were not given appointments a couple of hours apart.

The operator was less churlish than before – the experience is never pleasant – and took extra care, but this week the Fibbies came back again to say the prints were ‘unclassifiable,’ and if we didn’t get a personal clearance from the local cops in every place we’d lived for the past decade, Jen’s application would be dismissed.

So we went to the local law shop, and was told they don’t do personal, just a pro-forma records check (which came up as blank as my mind at 5am) so it might not satisfy the fingerprint crew back east. The local FBI knew nothing about any of it except to say that yes, those e-machines were often a pain, and I couldn;t call the migras and ask as you can only send questions by mail. Equally, the local PD don’t do fingerprints – you have to go to the county for that. The simple biz of renewing a green card takes eight months and some hair-tearing frustration and I’m still unsure a simple renewal is working. Go gov!

Oops 1: Kiwi communicant Brenda Chapman took pains with some domestic decorating – she’d repainted the hall and bathroom – and mentioned it to the contractor who showed up to do some work on her kitchen. He viewed the newly-decorated hallway and said admiringly that it looked like a professional job. Brenda swelled with pride. “You should see what i did in the toilet,” she said innocently, and wondered why the fellow coughed and made a swift exit.

Ooops 2 to Andy Leatham: “In hindsight I should have posted my Facebook status as: “I’ve blown the head gasket on my 1987 Ford XR3i” rather than “I’ve just buggered a 14 year old escort.” The police still haven’t seen the funny side, my laptop’s been confiscated, and the wife has gone off to her mum’s.”

Ooops 3 is from Jack Grimshaw, who’s reminded of a long-ago fox’s paw and missed opportunity: “My old pal Andy (Manchester Evening News, early ’70s) throws gasoline on the embers of an outing I would have to visit a seance to bring back to totally-coherent memory. The week cruising around the Bahamas on a Morgan 41 Out Island was something out of Hemingway. (Who did some serious imbibing – and wrote ‘Islands In the Stream’ – there himself.) It was a succession of lost, completely-drunk-by-10 a.m. days; crippling hangovers; a mean-spirited aho of a hired boat captain; my boatmates, Paul Jenkins (former NE colleague; RIP) and his wife-to-be, an Alabama heiress in the hugely profitable Pepsi bottling world, enjoying each other carnally every given, loud, stoned moment (it was a small vessel); every halfway-desirable female in every bar seemingly in the company of some suave bastard with a 60-foot powerboat.
“Until the final day. And then … a potentially magnificent assignation squandered. She, delicious black bartender visiting the boat for one reason only; me, paralyzed, comatose, drooling, bunked out after an extended liquid lunch at – yes – her place of employment, the one-of-a-kind End of the World Saloon,Alice Town, North Bimini. With such memories do we lacerate ourselves. Cheers.”

The Guardian newspaper invited readers to tell tales of their bosses from hell, and the saint unashamedly stole some of the stories. They range from the boss who demanded his underling iron his copy of the Financial Times, to the colleague seen painfully hobbling around. He was wearing his boss’ new shoes, as ordered, because the executive wanted them broken in. Here are some other choice tales:

“Once my boss was on a business trip to San Francisco. Our office is in New York. She called me from the hotel room and told me to call the front desk to order her breakfast from room service. ?–TimWhoHasLongSinceMovedOn

“I had to sit in the ladies lounge and watch the boss take a drunken nap, so no one disturbed her while she slept. –oohsandahs

“My boss asked me to write an email to say sorry for not smiling enough. I had to send it to her and all of upper management, who didn’t even know my name, let alone that I didn’t smile enough for some people. She said she would just feel better about working with me if I did it. A bit of me hates myself for not standing up for myself and saying no. –Anonymous

“My boss decided once that for a team-bonding experience, we should design, print, laminate and then cut out invites, menus and party bits – all to promote a huge family BBQ which none of us were actually invited to. –timthemonkey.”

The saint’s personal favourite concerns the underling ordered to go to the boss’ home, where his daughter was unable to start her car. “Fortunately,” says the employee, “she hadn’t looked under the hood.” The family cat had crawled under there, seeking warmth, and was strangled by the fan belt as the daughter tried to start the vehicle. When the boss heard what had happened, he told the underling to remove the deceased feline and send the daughter on her way. It must have made an interesting resume line, under ‘other duties as assigned’ – “Removal of dead cat.”

They are everywhere, these divas and despots. Our daughter Rachel once listened open-mouthed as her bosses instructed the staff to ‘write down what you like about each board member and make the messages into a paper chain to hang in the office for their visit.” She slid away, quietly uncooperative. Later, the paper chains were judged by those execs: for neatness! Later still, the board fired the clowns who’d made such kindergartenish decisions.
It was justice delivered, like the employee ordered to visit an exec’s home to collect a dinner jacket. “I had time, so I raided the fridge and made myself a ham sandwich, and I did a number two in his en-suite,” he said.

Husband Gets Dinner Ready: Fred Wehner says it wasn’t him, really, truly, but when someone’s wife left a note: “Take shepherd’s pie out of fridge and put in oven at 140 degrees,” this was the result:

Several people have asked me about the gent called ‘Coolfire’ who has given my Arthurian books such flattering reviews. He’s what Amazon call a Vine Voice, an independent reviewer who has been selected by Amazon for the quality, trustworthiness and helpfulness of his reviews. Here’s what Amazon have to say: “Amazon Vine invites the most trusted reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make informed purchase decisions. Amazon invites customers to become Vine Voices based on their reviewer rank, which is a reflection of the quality and helpfulness of their reviews as judged by other Amazon customers. Amazon provides Vine members with free products that have been submitted to the program by participating vendors. Vine reviews are the independent opinions of the Vine Voices. The vendor cannot influence, modify or edit the reviews. Amazon does not modify or edit Vine reviews, as long as they comply with our posting guidelines.” The saint being what he is, and no sniggering at the back, there, he hunted the man down and called him to say thanks. I later sent an email of thanks, and was puzzled not to receive a response. Now I know why: the man does not want to be bribed or influenced. I’m in awe of his integrity and just hope he sees this. This from a journo about whom was written: “You cannot bend or bribe or twist, thank God, the British journalist,. But seeing what unbribed, the man will do, there’s no occasion to.”

Here’s a joyous blog from Glennon Melton, a mum who posted a pic of her outmoded kitchen on social media, and received a host of how-to-update-it suggestions. Her response (thanks, Claire for pointing it out) is an uplifting, inspirational work that made me reconsider things for which I’m truly grateful, although I sometimes forget… Take a minute or two, it may lift your spirits:

Little Old Baily From Pasadena: congrats to Kim Baily,whose new healthcare training job as Simulation and Skills Lab Coordinator at Pasadena City College has pushed her to move to that city and avoid the trans-LA commute. She may coordinate, but she doesn’t dissimulate: she freely admits her recent trip to lecture in Australia was “really just an excuse to visit Down Under!”

SCARY STUFF: Ken Potter says there may be TWO Jim McCandlishes. Here’s Jim the One with happy friend and a mic; here’s the guy Ken found in the Atlantis Country Club – at the bar, in full McC mode ….

I thought that would wreck your weekend!

E-pistle 1037 Inspirational people August 8 14

A super heartwarming story from Dawna Kaufmann tells of an elderly dog called Lady whose owner died. Consigned to an animal shelter in Kansas, the black Labrador mix was adopted by a family who felt she was too rough for their puppy, and they soon returned her to the shelter. She was adopted again, but decided she liked her previous owners more, escaped, and walked 30 miles to somehow find them.

Distressingly, neither family wanted her any more and Lady boomeranged back to the shelter, her adoption chances ebbing fast. Then the Good Fortune Fairy waved her credit card. Wrigley Gum heiress Helen Rosburg heard of the case and made a call or two. She personally adopted Lady, then dispatched a private jet from Florida to Kansas to collect the pooch. Now lucky Lady lives in Rosburg’s 10,000 sq ft home on a 120-acre estate in Odessa, Florida, where she does not lack for company, because Rosburg has a full, professional staff to care for the 300 rescue animals she has gathered there.

Rosburg once did something similar for a US Marine. He was going to lose the two Anatolian dogs he’d rescued in Afghanistan because they were too big for a commercial flight to his new base. The heiress chartered a private plane to fly them across country. She said:” Mr Morales was going to lose his dogs and I said ‘Not on my watch.’ He’s a hero on so many different levels.”

A onetime Enquirer journalist reacted to news here of the American Media tycoon David Pecker’s skillful shepherding of yet another business into bankruptcy: “I recall being at a luncheon of AMI journos where David Pecker gave us a rah-rah speech. He announced that we were all partners and promised that we’d be sharing in the profits for years to come. Now, years later, those attendees are mostly out of jobs without having made a sou in profits. I guess we’re lucky Pecker didn’t stiff us with the lunch check.”

Reaction 2 to last week’s chatter: Kiwi Don Macnaughton adds to the Aussie slang collection with “Two analogies for hard at work: “Flat out like a lizard drinking” and “Busy as a one-armed paperhanger.” As to that, I quote the late Norm Marshall’s analogies for industry: “As busy as a bishop’s hat,” and “Up and down like a bride’s nightie.”

Reaction 3 concerns the bit about the all-inclusive Commonwealth Games. Dave Anson writes from New Zealand that he watched the excellent TV coverage, and singled out Englishman Bob Love, who won a bronze medal at lawn bowling: “In the (paralympic) lawn bowls I saw one-legged bowlers, one-armed bowlers, a double leg amputee who had to kneel down to bowl, and most incredible of all was a bowler with no arms!! Nothing from the shoulders down!!

“(Bob Love) had a cup on his bowling shoe in which he placed the bowling ball by rolling it into place with his other foot. He then sent the ball on its way with a flick of his cupped foot. It rolled up and kissed the jack and settled comfortably beside it.

“What incredible determination to overcome adversity. These athletes are more deserving of the publicity and accolades handed out to those such as Tiger Woods who draws world headlines because he has a back spasm.” Seconded. 

Dave also commented on N.Z’s Sophie Frances Pascoe, who won two gold medals even though she was competing against able-bodied swimmers. “This young lady, who had her leg amputated below the knee following a ride-on mower accident as a child, shredded the field and won an individual medley swim by an amazing four seconds. I get goose bumps just thinking about her courage and determination.” Chapeau, Sophie!

Tiny comedian Ronnie Corbett once worked as a barman, and that was where he met the man who’d become his longtime colleague, Ronnie Barker. Barker contends that Corbett had to stand on a box to see over the bar. In fact, he said, Corbett had two boxes. One was labelled ‘Agnes’ and the other ‘Champ.’ “I discovered later,” said Barker, “that in fact it was one box, sawn into two pieces. A box labelled Champagnes.”

You betcha gotcha: The saint does love Sarah Palin. She’s not perfect but she’s highly entertaining, especially when she reveals her deepest thoughts, which have all the wisdom you’d expect from the brain of a backward hen. This time, Sarah’s again mangled American history – remember how she revealed that Paul Revere rode to warn the British that the Americans were coming? Last month, on Independence Day, she tweeted “It’s #July4th. Happy birthday to George Washington, a great American patriot and conservative.” Sadly for Sarah, GW was born on February 22nd, 1732. His birthday is celebrated as a national holiday on the third Monday of that month.

When Sarah’s inability to distinguish between these two major American holidays was pointed out to her, she responded that “All this nonsense on Twitter is just another example of the gotcha liberal media trying to play politics with our nation’s most sacred holidays.” As one poster commented: “She’s the modern face of lead poisoning in America.”

KP – you know who you are – says: “I decided to stop calling the bathroom the John and renamed it the Jim. I feel so much better saying I went to the jim this morning.”

Mariner-ated: My long-ago colleague at William Caxton’s print shop in 1473, Andy Leatham has been all at sea recently. The Irish Sea, that is, and he got wet both outside and in. 

Andy was in Wales ..”racing in the IRC Welsh National Championships. There were only five of us on a boat that needs a crew of eight to make it work properly, so we didn’t do too well. We also trashed a £3,000 ($5k) spinnaker. On the positive side, we did our bit for the Welsh hospitality industry by downing approximately £3,000 of booze too.” Look out for Andy’s e-books, ‘Dead Harvest’ and ‘Killing Another,’ on Amazon plus a so-far-unnamed third which continues a theme of cellular transplant – transplanted body parts ominously influencing their new recipient’s behaviour…

Congratulations to Rachel and Bob Williams, celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary today (8/8/14) and to the saint himself, who’s landed another publishing contract for a series of historical fiction e-books on the Crusades. Gov’t warning: some of those who were named as characters in the first series of Arthurian books may find themselves appearing again, 800 years younger, and in Palestine.

Dave Steadman reports in from wildest Canada: “After a long day on the golf course, I stopped in at ‘Hooters’ to see some friends and have some Hot Wings and drinks. After a while, one of my friends asked me which waitress I would like to be stuck in an elevator with. I told them ‘The one who knows how to fix elevators.’ I’m old, tired, and pee a lot.”

He might be rockfast on Gozo, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, but Revel Barker’s not short of a story or two: “Two Irishmen were sitting in a pub watching the Tour de France on TV. Seamus shook his head and asked, “Whoi t’e hell do they do that?” “Do what?” asked Mick.
“Go on them boikes for moiles and moiles, up and down t’e hills, round t’e bends. Day after day, week after week. No matter if it’s oicy, rainin?, snowin?, hailin? ? ?Why would they torture themselves like that?” “Tis all for the prestige and the money,” replied Mick, “You know the winner gets about a half a million Euros?”
“Yeah, I understand that.” said Seamus, “But why do all the others do it?”

Last word to Ken Potter, who tells of the most junior member of a board of directors who was left sitting outside the conference room as the more senior directors were summoned one by one until only he was left. Finally he was called in to face the dozen or so others. “Have you ever slept with Miss Honeybun, my secretary?” asked the chairman. “No sir,” stammered the junior. “Are you certain of that?” demanded the chairman, again. “No, sir, I have not slept with her.” “Can I be sure about that?” he persisted. “Yes, sir. I have never touched her,” said the junior, nervously.

The chairman nodded. “Good,” he said, “then you fire her.”

E-pistle 1036, St Paul on sport, slang and an Ethiop Aug 1 2014

Probably unnoticed by our American cousins, there’s a fine athletic contest going on in Glasgow right now. The Commonwealth Games is an Olympics of sorts for colonial chaps (except the damn Yankee rebels) and we’re getting to see people like the Papua New Guinea or Namibia lawn bowling teams in action against such super powers (at lawn bowling) as Australia, or Canada, or Jamaica. Well, maybe not the last.

There are unlikely sports like air pistol target shooting, at 33 feet (10 metres) range, or ribbon dancing or Skeet Ladies, where the clay pigeons explode in a shower of purple dust. Nobody wants to eat what they’ve just shotgunned and they all walk about with their weaponry casually broken over the right shoulder.

There are 17 sports on show, like athletics and bike racing, field hockey, triathlon, boxing, swimming and there are lesser-highlighted events where elderly lady competitors (see lawn bowls, above) from New Zealand exult just as much as the tattoo’ed young athletes do in the judo. It’s great fun to watch, as US television puts on a nightly highlights show with Scottish commentators (whom I can’t always comprehend). One minute you’re watching two boxers beating the snot out of each other (they’ve dispensed with head protection now, saying it actually causes concussions, and you get cut eyebrows and blood, just like rugby) and the next, it’s some sprite twirling a 20ft ribbon and dancing across a gym mat or it’s a Singaporean winning at ping pong. It’s novel, it’s modestly intense and it’s beautifully presented, with actual winners shown, not like US network coverage of just the Texan homeboy who came in an exhausted seventh.

Best of all, I can be as jingoistic as I like, and support all the teams, or at least most of them. There are no gassed-up Putin’s Russians or North Koreans, not a single arrogant Yemeni or blood-diamond-sponsored Sierra Leonian, and certainly no posturing French. Instead, it’s comfortable Canadians, mumsy Malays, jolly Jamaicans and cosy Kiwis, a sort of 1950s world where terrorists were unknown (except that bloke Stalin) and the India cycling team have the splendidly-named Alan Baby riding for them. There’s always the consolation that even if the plucky English do come in last (they’re actually favoured to top the medals table – Ed) at least it was a colonial cousin who took the badminton medals. Good show, chaps. We taught ’em sporting values, y’know.

All of it is performed before wildly-enthusiastic Scots who seem to have quite a lot of medals and heroes of their own. Tune in and check it out. It’s how sport should be, without the overt win-at-all-costs attitudes.

Sport 2: For a decade now, including at the Sochi Olympics, Russian athletes have been using xenon gas as a booster for their body’s natural EPO, enabling a better uptake of oxygen, more testosterone, and less fatigue during athletic performance. Now the World AntiDoping Agency has noticed that it’s performance-enhancing, and banned use of the gas, but because it’s undetectable in the human body, they don’t have any way to tell if someone has actually indulged.

Bob Heaton, who trained at the US Military Academy, applied his West Point mind to the problem and recalled WW1 techniques. “All xenon does is stimulate the body to do its own EPO increase. It doesn’t leave any trace behind, no chemical markers. I guess they could get the xenon gas manufacturers to put a trace chemical, like chlorine, in the gas. That way, anyone who uses xenon will be dead. No need for further investigation.” (Brilliant. – Ed.)

Sport 3: Just emerged from morose silence after England’s World Cup fiasco, Jack Grimshaw harrumphs that Wayne Rooney’s name is an anagram of ‘Yo! One Yawner.’ He is, says Jack: ” The biggest disappearing act in World Cup history. … a single goal in 11 World Cup games; thoroughly dismantled by defenders you never heard of before and never will again.” But Mr G looks to the future: ” By the time the 2018 event in Russia rolls around, Geoff Hurst will be a mere 76 years old … hmm.”

Goodbye, Dolly: Dora Bryan died last week, aged 91, and I smiled. Not at the loss, but at a memory she left me, because I had two sort-of connections with Dora, who was a brilliant comedienne and talented actress. The first link was that she played a major role in the film ‘A Taste of Honey,’ which was written by Shelagh Delaney, who married into my clan. Her literature caused a scandal among my aunts, succinctly expressed as ‘a disgusting book all about those homosexuals down Trafford Road. No young girl should have known about them.’ I mentioned that to Dora, whom I interviewed once or twice, and she enjoyed the anecdote. A famous scene for her in the film was a row with her screen daughter Rita Tushingham (“You know what they’re calling you round here? A bloody little whore”) when Rita’s ineffectual husband steps in to stop both the argument and Dora from chasing Rita around the room. “Shut up,” she tells him. “We ENJOY it.” She won a a Best Actress BAFTA for the role.

My best Dora tale came when I was interviewing her for the Morning Telegraph, Sheffield. She was appearing in pantomime and asked me during the interview who it was for, dear? When she’d appeared on stage in Sheffield, starring in ‘Hello Dolly,’ she’d stayed in theatrical digs. I told her the interview was for the Telegraph. She said in her wonderful Northern accents, “Ooooh, Sheffield. I remember there. I had my knickers eaten by rats in Attercliffe.” When I choked laughing, she added poker-faced that she wasn’t actually wearing them at the time.

She also confided that Noel Coward had suggested she change her name from Dora May Broadbent, so she opted for the name on a matchbox: Bryant and May, but a misprinted theatre programme later turned her stage name into Bryan and she stayed with that. Rest now, Dora, and thanks for all the smiles.

There have been moans recently about the decline of Aussie slang, so, in the interests of preservation, the saint offers some examples of their colourful expressions. “She’s got a face like a dropped pie” suggests that the lady in question is less than beautiful. To “go off like a frog in a sock” means to go berserk, while to ‘go troppo’ means to go crazy, as in affected by the tropical heat, and that’s something you ‘need like a third armpit.’

If it’s messy and scattered, it’s “like a mad woman’s breakfast,” but “popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip” isn’t welcome at all. It means someone who’s not wanted anyhow. As for nouns, a ‘bushie’ is a Bushman, ‘tucker’ is food, a ‘firey’ is a firefighter and a ‘garbo’ is a garbage collector. With flourishing examples like these, it can’t be true that Strine – Aussiespeak – is ‘As crook as Rookwood.’ ‘Crook’ equals sick, Rookwood’s the continent’s biggest cemetery, and it’s where you go when you ‘cark it.’ Learn all these, and your brain will be ‘as full as a centipede’s sock drawer.’

Congrats to medallists Jennie and Rachel, who completed a half-marathon (their sixth annual) last weekend without any assistance from Your Humble, despite my cycling half way around Oregon to offer them drinks, food and cold sponges, all of which they refused. At least, I got to meet 17 years old junior double world champion Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia, who the previous day scorched to a 5,000 metres win in 13 minutes 25 secs. That’s roughly the equivalent of three sub-four minute miles in succession. He wasn’t up to full potential, said his coach, because his training had been impeded by Ohio’s bad weather. I offered hospitality next year to them, as they’d had probs getting a place, and have been on tenterhooks since, as four of the Ethiopian team have vanished, presumably to surface asking for political asylum

Bum plan: Phil Perry’s neighbour, Rocky (60ish) is a onetime surfer (he’s Hawaiian) whose kids have left home, and who has just retired. I asked him what he planned to do with his newfound time. “I’m going back to being a surf bum,” he said proudly. “I’m off to the coast (Newport, Oregon) tomorrow to surf, I’d move there but my wife has family in this area. I’ll come home for weekends.”

Poor old GT. Graham Timmins has had his hard-earned ($25 million) rubbed away, or so said this email to him: “…you have been going through hard times with thieves and Internet Fraudsters to the release of your fund, which has been delayed by this dubious officials, thereby rubbing you of your hard earn money and made you a Scam Victim. Be informed that few of the Criminals have been caught and brought to Justice.”

A Capital magazine interview (thanx for the heads-up go to Ken Potter) with the new National Enquirer honcho says that the comic’s parent company, American Media Inc is being sold to its creditors for a book value of $515 mill. This business triumph was engineered by one David Pecker, who spent about $500 mill of Other People’s Money to buy up the US tabloids, guided them into bankruptcy and was still $489 mill in debt two years after emerging from the financial wrecker’s yard. Pecker, head of AMI, directed the collapse of a thriving business and loss of several hundred jobs, plus serious financial losses for investors but Did All Right for himself. No peckerhead, he.

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Historical fiction of Britain’s first emperor, AD 286 – 293.

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