Posted by on Oct 2, 2014

E-pistle 1049 Secret Space Planes and curtain-lifters. 10.31.14

Alert news-watchers may have seen that the USAF’s secret space plane landed in California last week after a two-year mission. There’s much speculation that the mini-plane – it’s too snug to carry astronauts but has a cargo bay about the size of a truck bed – may be set up to steal other nations’ satellites. Some say that’s unlikely. The X-37B is fairly easily tracked, and if, say, a Chinese spy satellite vanished just as it crossed paths with the secret plane, well, the shoplifter, er, sat-lifter would be nabbed. Insiders say it’s designed to carry experimental payloads of sensors like high-tech cameras and ground-mapping radars, and to aid military back on Earth.

But Boeing has a bigger, badder X-37C in development at its Phantom Works division that can carry six astronauts and can dock with space stations, so maybe some spysat hijacks may be in the works…

An aside: if you ever wondered how the space shuttles got their names, author Simon Winchester has the answer (in his fine book ‘Atlantic.’) “All five of the space shuttle fleet were named after pioneering surface ships, two of them American, three British,” he says. Columbia was named for the first US vessel to circumnavigate the world, Atlantis after a Woods Hole research ship; Discovery and Endeavour for Capt Cook’s vessels and Challenger for the Royal Navy warship whose 70,000-mile research expedition (1872 -76) laid the foundations of modern oceanography.

Mary Pinchot Meyer JFK

From the recent revival of interest in the murder of Washington artist Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was (the late Washington Post editor) Ben Bradlee’s sister-in-law, and even more famously was a mistress of JFK, comes a tale from Malcolm Balfour, who was the National Enquirer editor who led an investigation into her death. Mally wrote: ” I was involved in it, I remember, (I was probably the AE but the story was Jay Gourley’s lead. We hinted that it was somehow linked to JFK’s assassination. I remember she was a drop-dead beauty, how she and JFK smoked pot on a White House balcony the night before a major anti-drug conference at the White House. Once she left her panties behind after a night with JFK and the next week she received them back in a White House envelope. Memories.

“She was formerly married to a CIA hotshot and she came from a noted family. Her father was governor of Pennsylvania. I remember how, on orders from (NE boss) Gene Pope, I had to get the story onto UPI and, I believe, Reuters. I’d worked for both of them in Miami. I know I got it onto UPI and then onto a major network – CBS? that’s how I remember these details — having Pope on my ass!!! — but it was all Jay Gourley’s glory.”
Photogger Bruce DeLis enjoyed the tale of Dan Haggerty and the fake Captain America bike, and recalled going to see Dan in hospital to picture him with his wounded leg, post a motorbike accident. Says Bruce: “Inside Edition, or was it Hard Copy? wanted to use my photo and offered $50. I said No. They said: ‘But we need it, we have money spent on our story!’ They would not give me an ASMP rate, and I said sorry. ‘NO.’ “

And here’s a pic of four photographers on assignment, with the boss on the back, tail dangling dangerously.

Ken Potter sends the uplifting story of the man who lost an arm in an accident. He became very depressed and decided to commit suicide to end it all. He went to the top of a building and was about to jump when he saw a man down on the sidewalk skipping along, whooping and kicking up his heels. He looked closer and saw that the fellow didn’t have any arms at all. He started thinking, “What am I doing up here feeling sorry for myself? I still have one good arm to do things with. There goes a man with no arms skipping down the sidewalk so happily, going on with his life.”

He hurried down to the sidewalk and caught up with the man with no arms. He told him how glad he was to see him because he lost one of his arms and felt useless and was going to kill himself. He thanked him for saving his life and said he knew he could make it with one arm if the guy could go on with no arms. The man with no arms began dancing and whooping and kicking up his heels again. He asked, “Why are you so happy anyway?” He said, “I’m NOT happy. My balls itch.”

Rodney Rottenfoot Gibson strode out of the Georgia woods to tell us he’s joined the likes of Ernest Hemingway, JK Rowlings and Dawna Kaufmann. That is, he’s become a Top Author. His understated sales pitch to the saint ran thus: “Just published a kid’s book ‘Casey and the Perfect Rock.’ Check out the e-book version on either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Publisher way overpriced hard cover and soft cover versions. Keep it in mind for grandkids, etc .” St Pee isn’t sure about the ‘et cetera’ but will keep C&TPR in mind, and so should you.

John Garton says “The rain was pouring and there was a big puddle in front of the pub. A ragged old man was standing there with a rod and hanging a string into the puddle. A tipsy- looking, curious gentleman came over to him and asked what he was doing. ‘Fishing,’ the old man said simply. ‘Poor old fool,’ the gentleman thought and he invited the ragged old man to a drink in the pub. As he felt he should start some conversation while they were sipping their whisky, the gentleman asked, ‘And how many have you caught?”You’re the eighth today.’ ”

Late news from John: “Back home after three days in hospital with a heart episode. The world looks a wonderful place.
Got pills galore to take. No more g&ts, martinis or single malts. Just the odd wine. I’ll certainly take that. Hospital life was stressful, people come in the room every two or three hours all day and all night to take your vitals, prod you, poke you, hook you up to a myriad of machines, give you endless injections and pills, feed you totally tasteless food, make the bed, clean the room, or just plain wake you up. Sweet people, all of them, always apologising.
Whatever, I’m still here… and loving it. Bobbey, of course, was a diamond, bringing me home-made food.”

Department of Things You Learn While Looking Up Other Things: actress Dorothy Jordan (d. 1816) was the mistress of the Duke of Clarence (later to be King William IV) and had ten children by him, all of who took the name Fitzclarence. When King George III suggested halving Dorothy’s allowance to £500 a year, she sent the Duke a message in the form of the bottom part of a playbill for the production in which she was currently appearing. It read: “No money returned after the rising of the curtain.”

Also in the Looking Up mode, travel writer Eric Newby has the tale of Castle Mahon, near Cork, Ireland (hello, Mary Kline!) built in 1836 by Anastasia Gould as a surprise present for her husband while he was travelling. Mrs Gould made a shrewd deal with the builders to be the sole supplier of their food and clothing, which resulted in the net cost of the castle-like mansion coming to just four English pence, or about seven cents. Despite this dazzling bit of biz, her husband was displeased, saying she had mismanaged the whole thing.

I sent out a video of Libyans defiling a WW2 military cemetery because it was dedicated to a religion not their own, and Dave Anson responded, to bring our attention to the growing Islamisation of Europe, and to a Dutch politician who is campaigning against it. Geert Wilder was tried and acquitted of inciting racism after his speech in New York (which can be read in full here, authenticated by Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/wilders.asp )

Here’s a partial:
Geert Wilder is a member of the Dutch Parliament who says In a generation or two, the US will ask itself: “Who lost Europe ?”

Here is the speech of Geert Wilders, Chairman, Party for Freedom the Netherlands , at the Four Seasons in New York , introducing an Alliance of Patriots and announcing the Facing Jihad Conference in Jerusalem .

All throughout Europe a new reality is rising: entire Muslim neighborhoods where very few indigenous people reside or are even seen. And if they are, they might regret it. This goes for the police as well. It’s the world of head scarves, where women walk around in figureless tents, with baby strollers and a group of children. Their husbands, or slaveholders if you prefer, walk three steps ahead. With mosques on many street corners. The shops have signs you and I cannot read. You will be hard-pressed to find any economic activity. These are Muslim ghettos controlled by religious fanatics.

In some elementary schools in Amsterdam the farm can no longer be mentioned, because that would also mean mentioning the pig, and that would be an insult to Muslims.

Many state schools in Belgium and Denmark only serve halal food to all pupils. In once-tolerant Amsterdam gays are beaten up almost exclusively by Muslims. Non-Muslim women routinely hear ‘whore, whore’. Satellite dishes are not pointed to local TV stations, but to stations in the country of origin.

In France school teachers are advised to avoid authors deemed offensive to Muslims, including Voltaire and Diderot; the same is increasingly true of Darwin . The history of the Holocaust can no longer be taught because of Muslim sensitivity.

In England sharia courts are now officially part of the British legal system. Many neighborhoods in France are no-go areas for women without head scarves. Last week a man almost died after being beaten up by Muslims in Brussels , because he was drinking during the Ramadan.


… in its essence Islam is a political ideology. It is a system that lays down detailed rules for society and the life of every person. Islam wants to dictate every aspect of life. Islam means ‘submission’. Islam is not compatible with freedom and democracy, because what it strives for is sharia. If you want to compare Islam to anything, compare it to communism or national-socialism, these are all totalitarian ideologies.

Lastly, here’s a spirit lifter from Roger and Liz Tregear: as a flash mob welcomes travellers at Heathrow. Some very fine voices:

E-pistle 1048 Saintly fakes, forgeries and topless girls Oct 24

Mild rejoicing in the Bannister baronial hall, as the saint this week (almost) finished the first of a new series of e-books. Now it’s down to editing and adding bits of historical notes. The epic went quickly, because unlike the previous Romano-British tomes, this is set in 12th century England, a well-documented period with real people, events and places to use as backdrops. The travels of Henry II are documented to the day, as are his personal details, even down to his ingrowing toenail and his dalliance with his son’s fiancee. Boldly, I included some real, early medieval Banastres in the narrative and bike builder Brazen Bob Westman appears as Robert of Vesterman, a bladesmith. Also in the script: William FitzMorris (aka Bill Morrison) and Jaquin of Grimshaw – see 2014 version below.

Remember, you read it here first: that the ‘Easy Rider’ Captain America motorbike (which last weekend sold for $1.3 mill plus auctioneer fees of another $300k) was of er, Doubtful Provenance. Jack Grimshaw reports from the LA Times that ‘Grizzly Adams’ star Dan Haggerty’s now admitted to selling the only “authentic’ bike, er, twice, actually. Actor Peter Fonda, who is clueless about the thing, says ‘There’s a big rat stinking someplace in this’ not long after ‘authenticating’ the ersatz bike. Well, he may be right. neither bike may be the real thing, if Dan’s 1990s confession to the saint is to be believed. Then, he said that post-filming, three bikes were stolen by the Hells Angels, the fourth was wrecked, and junked. If all that’s true, there is no authentic bike, just two expensive replicas. After all, if the Shroud of Turin is a replica, (see this week’s news) why not have a Harley clone, too?

Also from last week, Hayden Groves, six years old, noted after his first rugby game: “The other side played really dirty.” The saint chimed in that ‘I told you it was in Wales. Wait until he meets the Russians. Or the French.’ Now Jack Grimshaw offers corroboration: “If you can’t take a punch, you should play table tennis.” He’s quoting Pierre Berbizier, French skipper and coach, following Scotland’s accusations of French foul play in 1995. As an aside, Jack proclaims the orgasmic highlight of his life is still the interception and 40-yard runback for the Old Boys rugby team against the Manchester school that had had the audacity to expel him on the first day back after summer hols. “I was weak-kneed, trembling and smiling beatifically for 15 minutes.” (At scoring, not at being expelled, says the saint).

Weak-kneed he’s not, but my brother Don Bannister faces a day-long surgery next Monday as doctors operate on his tongue cancer. He’ll be in hospital in Rochdale for several weeks, post-surgery, and will have to re-learn speaking and eating skills. Send good thoughts, burn a joss stick for him, please, or say a prayer if you’re so inclined.

Useful tip for the ‘flu season: the pharmacist who gave me a flu shot this week asked if I wanted a high-test shot, which is double the strength. Nah, I said, just regular. He then confided that the extra-strong stuff merely means that you continue producing antibodies for about two weeks instead of the usual one, but there’s no demonstrated extension of your immunity. The drug companies simply make twice the money for almost no extra cost, and insurers bear the brunt.

Last week, the saint labelled Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s despot, as Shiite. Brian Barrick pedantically says he’s actually an Alawite, which is an offshoot of Shia Islam. Either way, both Alawites and Shiites have historically been persecuted by the Sunnis for their beliefs. Fact is, Assad’s clan is secular and religion plays little part in their lives. Bashar’s father Hafez, who became president in 1970, seemed blind to his opponents’ religion – he merely had his political adversaries topped.

Brian was in the oil bidness there and says: “There were regular Friday hangings in Damascus and the executed were predominantly Shiite – saw the result several times on a Saturday morning as the execution area was close to the Syrian Petroleum offices and the bodies were left up for a couple of days. The police would divert all traffic through the square so that everyone would see the carnage.

“The Assad entourage is predominantly Alawite, even down into the Ministries, such as Petroleum where even the department heads were Alawite. We were in Syria negotiating a Concession Agreement with SPC. It was daunting as everyone was looking over their shoulder. One evening I made a phone call from the Damascus Sheraton to the Oxy Bakersfield office. I hung up and about five minutes the phone rang and I heard a complete playback of my phone call. The next day I mentioned it to my contacts and they said it was not possible – I must have dreamt it and not to mention it again.”

Fred Wehner confesses: “I was reading an article last night about fathers and daughters, and it brought memories flooding back of the time I took my own daughter out for her first drink. Off we went to my local pub, which is only a few hundred yards down the road.
I got her a Heineken. She didn’t like it. I had to drink it. Then I got her a half of Bass. She didn’t like that either, so I drank it. It was the same with the Kronenberg, the Carlsberg and the Amstel Light. By the time we got down to the Johnnie Walker I could hardly push her pram home.”

Freddy slyly says he’s secure since he tore out his alarm system and de-registered from the Neighbourhood Watch. “I’ve got two Pakistani flags raised in front of my house and the black flag of ISIS in the centre. The local police, MI5, and other intelligence services are all watching my place around the clock. I’ve never felt safer.”

Kiwi cousin Carole Gardiner has had five or six weeks recovering from tendon surgery so delegated domestic duties to husband John. He’s had his hands full with sons Ryan (soccer and cricket) Cameron (athletics and surfing) Liam (futsal and cricket) and reports that all three (aged 12,14 and 9) have inherited Carole’s bossiness gene. Futsal’s mini-soccer, I had to look it up.

Craig Grabeel says it must be good news: his IQ test results came back negative.

Dave Steadman has an answer to something. Steady says a mate saved his girlfriend’s phone number on his mobile as ‘Low Battery’. “Whenever she calls him in his absence, his wife takes the phone and plugs it into the charger. Give that man a medal.”

Sad news from Vancouver, where Bald Eagle rugby stalwart Jim Porter has passed away at age 78. Jack and Mary Lou Hamilton attended the funeral, noting “It’s sad to see so many of the good guys go.” Jim played for Canada on their British Isles tour in 1962 and against All Japan and Fiji (at eight man) the following year. He made 40-plus rugby tours around the world as well as being organiser and host to numbers of incoming tourists, including the All Blacks and Fiji. He leaves a son, Duncan and wife Joan, who was there on the touchline for his first match at age 16, and for his last, at age 70. He was with the Bald Eagles and the saint when we played in Colorado and was responsible for admonishing Gordon Varnadoe when he demonstrated the flotation qualities of his Gentleman’s Sausage in the hot tub. The lady tennis players present protested that it was a scientific experiment, so Jim relented.

Saint Joe of Mullins, also known as Soul-searching of Selby, writes in puzzlement: “You know my commitment to accuracy in journalism.( Ha! – Ed.) I’m now in a quandary. Two of my icons stand poles apart. A few years ago I read the Saint’s exclusive on the new Yukon gold rush. The modern-day 49’ers were topless girls, happily seeking their fortunes panning for gleaming metal. When not picking up cricket-ball size nuggets they frolicked playfully in the chilly streams and washed the yellow mud off each other’s backs. It seemed an idyllic life and I considered volunteering (back-washing, not digging). My beloved vetoed it despite my exclamation that this story was ex cathedra, from the very seat of the Saint. Imagine my concern when I watched the 60 Minutes story on the self-same topic, expecting to see some of the girls in all their glory. I was very disappointed to hear men with beards, checked shirts and dungarees talking about using drones, soil cores and electronic soundings to find the precious metal. The only ‘bare’ in the show was, in fact, a bear, trying to protect her territory. She was topless, naked actually. I think your original story was in the prestigious organ NUTS. I weigh that against years of watching the top news show in the US and wonder can the two be reconciled?”
Saint P responds that a) you can’t trust television and b) the topless girls were in a warm part of Oregon and are frolicking there to this day. Absolutely.

E-pistle 1047 Turks and tangled turmoil Posted Oct 16 2014

Briefing: There was a surprisingly wide (and positive) response to the saintly scribbles last week about the Saudis, whose barbarism escapes notice because we focus more on the cruel doings of ISIS fanatics. Well, there’s another dangerous facet of those murderous Islamists and it concerns the ISIS relationship with a Western ally now on the brink of dictatorship and civil war. I speak of Turkey.

In 1853, Tsar Nicholas of Russia called Turkey the ‘sick man of Europe,’ and 161 years later, the term is again appropriate. Last August Tayyip Erdogan stripped the military of power and became Turkey’s president. He’s poised to change the country’s constitution and install himself as another Vladimir Putin. He may do it at the cost of much Kurdish and Western blood.

Erdogan is a Sunni Islamist, and Sunni-Shia religious conflict is at the heart of the Middle East mayhem. Across Turkey’s border with Syria, the organisation ISIS is battling Kurds who hold the city of Kobani and without help from outside there could be a massacre. Erdogan is reluctant to support the Turkish Kurds’ efforts to survive because for three decades the ethnic group have been fighting Turkey for self-rule. Worse, ISIS is a fellow member of the Sunni congregation. Although the Turks and the Kurds have been slowly moving towards reconciliation, Erdogan could benefit from them being overrun by his Sunni co-religionists in ISIS. Observers say that although he has closed the border to fighters who wish to join the Kurds, he turns a blind eye to arming and provisioning ISIS from Turkey, and he also supports the banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Additionally, Syria’s brutal president, Bashar al-Assad is Shiite, so Erdogan is insisting that America move against Assad before Turkey will involve itself.

There is also turmoil on Turkey’s Iraq frontier, plus a huge corruption scandal growing in Ankara over hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials. Erdogan’s dictatorial response was to silence all allegations with a ban on Twitter and YouTube, to give his intel agencies power to track citizens and to cut rivals’ political air time. Some of the repressive measures have been overturned, but the Turkish media is tightly controlled, and sectarian tensions are rising. The expected massacre in Kobani could mean an end to peace talks and a bloody uprising within Turkey with all that it would mean for the West.

There’s some irony in the fact that the Saudis are ultimately behind all this. The state religion of Saudi Arabia is Wahhabism and the Saudis used their petrodollars for 30 years to fund the spread of that creed. It was a Frankenstein tale, for those who learned Wahhabi dogma have gone even more extremist, and moved from Saudi intolerance to ISIS’ insistence on destruction. Today, the Saudi monster’s terror model means Al Qaeda and the rest have turned on the Saudi ‘heretics.’

The jihadists might not establish their war in the West, but they could force us into conflict in their own region. Kobani may be the flashpoint.

Lightening note: Pic of the day: British Army rescues 47 ISIS sex slaves, and that’s Don Hesler in drag, trying to save his girlfriend. Rocket Ron Lawson said he was ‘just saying’ when he counted 53 in the herd, but only 47 of them are slaves, the others are Talib wives.


Uber-corr Ken Potter offers this: ” Collingwood, nicknamed the Magpies, and based in the city of Melbourne, is an Australian Rules Football club which is the most supported, successful (having played in a record 43 grand finals) in the Australian Football League (AFL) — averaging home game crowds of over 72,000:

A Collingwood girl goes to the welfare office to register for child benefits.
“How many children?” asks the welfare officer.
“Ten” replies the Collingwood girl,
“Ten?” says the welfare worker.
“What are their names?”
“Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan, Nathan
and Nathan”
“Doesn’t that get confusing?”
“Naah…” says the Collingwood girl, “It’s great because if they are
out playing in the street I just have to shout ‘Nathan yer dinner’s
ready!’ or ‘Nathan go to bed now!’ and they all do it.
“What if you want to speak to one individually?” says the curious welfare worker.
“That’s easy,” says the Collingwood girl… “I just use their surnames”
Journo and author Malcolm Nicholl keeps an eye on the news so we can learn about even the smallest things…like the tale of the Spanish woman who has been forced to admit to a little indiscretion on her hen party night. Her confession was inspired by evidence after she gave birth. The baby her husband thought was conceived during their honeymoon was actually fathered by a dwarf stripper the night before the wedding.

‘Miniboys’ are popular entertainers at Spanish stag and hen parties, and the bride-to-be failed to withstand her stripper’s charms. Nobody knew until her baby was born with dwarfism. The anxious husband repeatedly questioned doctors how this could have been, until his wife broke down and confessed. Jokes about her drinking wine then getting into the shorts will be regarded as in bad taste.

Jennie Bannister says you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running. Just teasing her, really. She only drinks one or two cups a day. But it’s worth a mention that Saturday Oct 18th makes her a Septamummy. Not seven children, just that many decades. The epistle’s gone out a bit early this week because we’re at a beach house on the Oregon coast with Claire Bannister, Rachel and Bob Williams (and two big dogs) to celebrate three birthdays: Claire (15th Oct) Jennie (18th) and Rachel (25th). Planned activities do not include singing the school song.

Emma Groves’ six years old son Hayden turned out this week for his first Under-7s rugby tourney, and he has it down perfectly. The pic below tells you everything you need to know: he’s playing stand-off. Just one glance is enough: he has the exact stance every international half-back assumes, to demonstrate that he’s watching the forwards do the work. Yes, it’s in Wales, and yes, the backs look like backs everywhere: clueless and picking their noses. Hayden’s verdict on the game: “The other side played really dirty.” I told you it was in Wales. Wait until he meets the Russians. Or the French.

Either this is inspiring or depressing: Jodi Ernst, a GOP candidate in a crowded Iowa election field, easily won the nomination on the strength of a single TV ad that made her stand out from the others. She cheerfully declared:”I grew up castrating pigs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” It’s either depressing that people are swayed so easily by something that’s not a debate of real issues, or inspiring that a politician can employ humour.

Pete VanValin pops up in Puerto Vallarta to tell about the two Canadians in a bar. One says:”Didja know that elks have sex 10 or 15 times a day.” “Aw, crap,” says the other. “And I just joined the Knights of Columbus.”

Brilliant idea from London, per BBC: to build an eight miles long bikeway that FLOATS on the Thames. The intent is to reduce the dangers to cyclists of using the city’s heavily-trafficked streets. The proposed Thames Deckway would hug the south bank and would rise and fall with the river’s tides. It would boast access ramps and refreshment kiosks, be lit by solar, tidal and wind energy and would handle 12,000 cyclists per hour. Time saved crossing London: about 30 minutes.

The project will cost about $965 mill and could be finished in two years. It’s rivalled by a skyway path plan that would put 136 miles of car-free bike paths above existing rail lines. The land-based skyway’s pilot scheme first leg, just four miles long, would cost about $350 mill, but is still much less expensive than building more roads. The Deckway on the other hand would float on a narrow strip of river – no land costs involved. See the full story here:

E-pistle 1045 Cerebral stars and others. Posted Oct 2 2014.

Time for some mildly cerebral, or at least thought-provoking stuff, courtesy of Huff Post and my oldish colleague John Mulrooney, who went to Cambridge. The Cambridge Evening News, that is, and a long time ago, too. John forwards Tim Urban’s piece on the Fermi Paradox, or the question of why, in a universe where statistics say there should be 100 Earth-Like Planets for each grain of sand in our small world, (or 100 billion billion ELP’s), there’s still no sign of anyone else around.

Here’s the reasoning: our relatively young sun means there are many older stars which should by now have developed intelligent life on their planets (about 100,000 in our galaxy alone) why aren’t we seeing visitors? The theories are many. Perhaps there are no higher civilisations, maybe because of the Great Filter, a hypothetical wall which destroys civilisations at some level of their development. Or, maybe we’re just rare – the Filter is behind us, and we surpassed it. Or, maybe we’re the first (and we’re screwed, because the Filter is still to come).

Another group of explanations is that intelligent life is out there and there are good reasons we haven’t heard from them, or they popped in say, 50,000 years ago when our own ancients had no way of telling future generations about those UFOs. Maybe, too, we’re just out in the galactic sticks, in a quiet and overlooked backwater. Or, maybe there are predator civilisations out there and intelligent life knows not to advertise its presence. One of those super-predator civilisations might even be quietly eliminating the competition.

Other possibilities, some of them equally scary: the signals are there but we haven’t yet got the tech to decipher them; maybe we’re the animals in a galactic zoo. We could even be completely wrong about our reality and we’re holograms, or are simulations or aliens planted as an experiment or even are some kind of fertiliser. Now there’s a thought. Einstein was a piece of merde. Just saying.

You can read the full piece at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/the-fermi-paradox_b_5489415.html and if you have questions, John will answer them. After all, he was at Cambridge. Whatever, it’s material to consider the next time you’re out looking at the stars.

Stars 2: The saint is as vulnerable to being starstruck as a young girl would be around say, that Justin Bieber jerk, but the Beatified Paul has the good taste only to be awed by intelligent celebs. In this case, it’s the author Simon Winchester, whose books the saint blesses and wholeheartedly and unequivocally recommends. Reading one gets you a plenary indulgence, too, and is guaranteed to save you an aeon in Purgatory. (No, it won’t – Ed.) Whatever, the great man dropped a note in the poor box and gives us a glimpse of his unenviable travel schedule.

Genuflect, press your nose to the glass and marvel, here’s what Winchester S, (former Head Boy, Hardye’s School, Dorset) has to say: “I so envy Mr. Waggledagger and his 70th shindig. I turn 70 this Sunday (sharing the 28th September with Brigitte Bardot and Confucius – leading some to say that I have the brain of the former and the body of the latter). Anyway: I have just been researching in the Russian Far East and Japan: touched down in LA on Thursday and was immediately pitched into the paperback book tour: jet-lagged events in LA and Santa Barbara, a 6am flight to NY on Saturday, one day off for the Sunday birthday, then right away to Atlanta, Denver, Austin, Columbus, Pittsburgh and St.Paul. No respect for the aged, these publishers. But no, I’m not moaning. Nice to be toured at all, these benighted days.”
Three more years, and Simon will be Winchester 73. No, I’m not explaining the feeble movie joke.

Gavin Owen-Thomas is seeking old pal Martin Turner (or his accomplice John Burke-Davis) and calls on the e-pistoleros for help. You don’t need a hyphen to communicate, btw. I played soccer against Gavin once, and met his devastating sidestep. By the time I’d decided whether to go left for the Owen or right for the Thomas, all I was left with to tackle was the hyphen.

A bit of long-ago gossip about Turner and JBD: they and the inimitable and late, much-lamented Leo Clancy once went adventuring in South America, armed with Enquirer credit cards. In Medellin or Bogota (I can’t recall which) they were raided in their hotel room by the local law, who hoped to shake them down for drug possession. Leo told me the cops just about dismantled the whole pot-fragrant room but found nothing, which frustrated Bogota’s Finest almost beyond belief, but they had to exit muttering. “So, Leo,” I said, incredulous, “you were actually CLEAN?” “Nah,” he growled in his best Sarf Lunnon accents. “I’d put the stuff in the overhead light bowl. Nobody never looks up there.”

Obituary: Gene Pope, publisher of the Enquirer had several secretaries, including a helpful Englishwoman, Carole Giedinghagen, whose daughter Belinda babysat our two small girls, and a gorgon with an aggressively-jutting arse called Dana Underwood, who was a sort of papal Mini-Me with a cultivatedly brusque manner. She would race into the newsroom clutching an armful of papers and threateningly announce to all who must attend a meeting with GP: “In there, NOW!” David Wright, a journo never intimidated by anyone (including Boris Becker, who demanded:’Cut the crap, whaddya want?” but Dave got the interview anyway) sent out this: “Obit for Dana, GP’s formidable assistant, in today’s Palm Beach Post. She was 65 … ‘when her fear of being in the water overwhelmed her, she became a certified diver … when she recovered from her first bout of cancer, her first comment was ‘I want my Harley now …’ Remembering how she terrified me!”

Joe Mullins remembers Dana more favourably. When he found that his first week’s pay was short because his initial day at the Enq was a holiday, he stalked into GP’s office to complain. Dana put him right, explaining that GP wouldn’t approve paying the cash, but she would OK that he had a comp day off. “She prevented me from resigning,” says Joe. Maybe that was a good thing. Or not.

Terrified neither of Dana nor forces of nature is Carol Wright, David W’s ever-youthful missus, who was in Napa, California last month celebrating her, er, milestone birthday, (clue: see above) when the earth moved for her. And for everyone else. It was the 6.0 earthquake that was the Bay Area’s biggest since 1989. Someone was paying attention to Carol’s transit of the decades.

Not Terrified 2: Jennie, this week, when her car was T-boned at slow speed by a distracted driver. Nobody was injured, but Jen did get a near-terminal case of Utter Boredom, answering insurance companies and the DoT about how it happened. Jennie was held 100% innocent, another first.

Ken Potter is innocently clear on concepts. Asked where an over-60 man could find younger women attracted to him, he answered: “Try a bookstore, under fiction.” Ken’s also clear about unlicensed loving. “It isn’t premarital sex if you have no intention of getting married.”

Graham Lawrence offers a golden oldie about the woman who went to a clinic and was seen by a veteran doctor. After two minutes in the examination room, the medic told her she was pregnant, and she burst out into the hall, screaming. A young doctor, passing by, asked her what was the problem, listened carefully, then marched into the veteran medico’s office. “Mrs Terry is 69 years old, has four adult children, eight grandchildren and you told her she was pregnant?” The veteran doc never even looked up from his paperwork. “Does she still have hiccups?” he asked.

In the days before he became a celebrated management consultant, Virginia rugby fullback Craig Grabeel was a mole-catcher. A gardener who took great pride in his impeccable lawn was highly annoyed to find it looking like a lunar landscape thanks to a single local mole’s efforts, so called on Craig to catch the little digger. Our hero staked out the area for three nights in a row, without any success at all. The homeowner was irate, so Craig promised he’d do better. “When you catch the little swine,” the client said, “give it the most horrible death as punishment.” The next morning, a bleary Craig reported success. “I caught him at last, ” he said triumphantly, “and I gave him a horrible death.” “Good,” said the home owner, “What did you do?” “I buried him alive,” said Craig.

When Craig was president of the our Palm Beach Rugby Club, he had his own way of telling players they’d been dropped from the first team that week. He’d summon them into his luxurious office in Boynton Beach City Hall and offer them a dice. “If you roll a one to a five, you’re dropped,” he’d say. The anxious player would always ask:”Sir, what if I roll a six?” “Then you get to roll again.”

Roll on, the weekend.