Who Ya Gonna Call?

Who you gonna call when things go bump in the night? Except that Ghostbusters is a fantasy and the only thing instead is a well-meaning individual who responds as best he can to the real troubles in the world. Robert Preston isn’t actually going to come and recruit him to be the Last Starfighter to go and save the galaxy.

They talk about the US President as if he was the only one who ever had to make a tough decision. Oh, sure, but no one has to make bigger or better decisions than the Americans. The world knows that.

So who you gonna call? Ghost busting now is big business, with courses and certificates and all sorts. Still only window dressing.

His mother would have understood. But all of a sudden there was a big hole in his life where she used to be.Now there was no one to share an anecdote that evoked a memory from childhood or to consult about what a particular plant was or who starred in which film.

He sighed as he stood up and blew his nose. Enough! Time he grew up.

He straightened his shoulders and hobbled back into the Retirement Home.

Joyce with Phil and Steve

In loving memory of Joyce Lillian Pimentil nee Thomas (13th October 1922-1th May 2013.) A life well lived.


The Wild Colonial Boys

These days, of course, the United States weilds the big stick as the self-appointed Guardian of World Democracy.Yes, children, but there was a time when Britain was truly Great and sending a gunboat actuallyGunboat diplomacy stopped almost as many wars as they started.

The legacy of those times lives on for better or, mostly, worse all around the globe, but perhaps nowhere more poignantly than in London itself, once the centre of the universe, and now…

As jaded relics of former glory go, the clubland of Britain’s capital has gone further than most. Let us take a look through the windows of this fine old Victorian edifice. What do we find inside the hallowed portals of the Colonial Club?

Behold the visitors – 3 stalwart representatives of America’s law enforcement agencies. First up, an NYPD Blue, in dubious civilian clothing, apparently trying to impersonate Al Pacino as Serpico.

Next to him, doing his best not to fall off his barstool while riding it like a motorbike (how droll) is a ChiP.

Delicately distancing himself fom tthe other two is the only occupant of the room to wear a suit. Royalty? No, far superior, it is a Chief Special Agent In Charge Of Chiefly Special Agents for the FBI. Slumming.

Their hosts for the evening are 2 pukka sahib types, as alike as peas in a pod. Perkins and Thompson, or possibly Thomkins and Person. They are doing their best to ignore the gin-fuelled mutterings of another Englishman, slumped in the corner of the bar. We will come to him later.

Meanwhile, let us listen to these Colonial Police Officers, for such is what they are, as they entertain their American cousins.

“Well,of course,” says Thompson (or Perkins), “there’s no question that you chaps do a wonderful job where you come from, but I doubt if you have any officers who could match Carruthers (or possibly Carstairs).

Askari soldierHe was a sub-Inspector in my old outfit, the Kenyan Police, during the Mau Mau uprisings. He was in his Landrover with an Askari driver when they came to a native settlement where 50 Mau Mau terrorists were rioting and generally misbehaving.

Well, the driver braked so hard, the Landrover swerved into a ditch and before you could say , er, anything at all, the Askari was offski.

Carstairs was just about to write him a ticket for leaving the scene of an accident when the Mau Mau boys saw him, and one of them threw an assegai that ripped through his stomach and left his entrails spilling out on to the floor.

Did that worry Carrutherstairs? Not at all! He bent down, picked up his intestines, shoved them back in his stomach, drew his revolver and shouted, ‘Disperse, in the Queen’s name’

The Mau Mau were so stunned by his bravery that they all fled. That man’s a Superintendent in our Force now.”

Murmurs of appreciation from the visiting Americans, and loud belchings from the johnny in the corner.

“Pish and tush and similar,” cries Parkinsims. “Our Force has better men than that. Back in The Emergency we had a chappie in the Malay Police,


Malay Police during the Emergency
"Are you a terrorist?"


Probationary Inspector Saunders, who was on river patrol with a couple of Dayak lascars when he came upon 100 Communist Terrorists pillaging and raping a rubber plantation.(can this be right? Ed.)

The native constables lost control and crashed the boat into the jetty so hard that they both went head first through the windows of the estate-manager’s bungalow.

Saunders immediately cited the lascar for breaking and entering, and was about to do the same for the Dayak (nothing queer about Saunders!), when the terrorists opened fire on him with sub-machine guns.

What do you think happened? They blew the top of his head off, and his cranium fell out on to the ground.

Was he bothered? No, sir!. Plucky young Saunders picked up the grey matter, dropped it into his skull, drew his pistol and shouted, ‘Disperse, in the Queen’s name’.

The terrorists were so afraid of this indestructible superman that they fled. Saunders is a Senior Superintendent in our Force now.”

Luckily for our sanity, we will never know what stories the Americans would have invented to match these heroic tales, because, just as they open their collective mouths, the drunk in the corner (remember him?) waves his glass at the others and says,

“You guys think you’re something special, don’t you? Well, let me tellRoyal Hong Kong Police you, I’m from the Royal Hong Kong Police, the finest force that money can buy, and we’ve got more than 100 guys in our Force with no guts, no brains, and they’re ALL fucking Superintendents.”

The Point Of Proof


Robert Mitchum
Image by Alan Light via Flickr



“A man doesn’t forget. A man pays his debts.” So ran the movie posters for the 1974 Sidney Pollack film noir, Yakuza, starring Robert Mitchum.

This was an introduction for Western audiences to the Japanese perception of underworld honour, contrasting with the big Mafia-based films of the 70’s, The Godfather, Prizzi’s Honour etc. One of the defining moments in the film is where Robert Mitchum cuts off his little finger to prove he is a man with the same moral sense as his Japanese confederates.

This action was intended to be seen as a substitution for ritual seppuku, where the pain and the determination involved reflect a serious moral obligation, or giri, on the part of the person committing the act.

But cutting off your fingers can get out of hand.

Just the other week, a 19-year-old student, Sun Zhongjie, who had only arrived in Shanghai 2 days earlier to work for the Shanghai Pangyuan Construction Machinery Engineering Co Ltd felt compelled to prove his innocence in a dramatic gesture appropriate to the severity of the charge against him – driving an illegal taxi cab.

Now vindicated,
Sun%20after%20hearing“I’m happy,” sobbed the 19-year-old from Henan province after he received his finger back an apology from Shanghai City Administration and Law Enforcement Bureau for Pudong New Area District.

Such an extravagant response to petty bureaucracy would surely have struck a chord with dear Omar Khayyam, whose original draft of his Ode To A Traffic Ticket was recently found to have contained these lines:

The moving finger writes, and, having writ,
Falls off Moves on: nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.
Speeding camel, my arse.

The Mongolian Death Worm by OldChinaHand


The Gobi Desert lies in the territory of Peopl...
Image via Wikipedia


The huddled encampment had come into view hours ago, but had never seemed to get any closer as our tiny convoy negotiated the springtime Mongolian desert. At last we pulled up, and Ted stretched with relief before beginning to unload our paraphernalia. As we looked anxiously round for signs of the scientific expedition we had travelled thousands of miles to film, our interpreter,


Mongolian yurt


Genghis, went to greet the headman outside his yurt. The atmosphere was intense.
“Juju man no here, boss,” said Genghis, “Disfella still make ready”. A keen student of Eng. Lit. – B.A. Mumbai (failed) – Genghis had his own idea of how an interpreter should speak.
“Any other camera crews arrived?”
“No, boss.”
We were still the first.

The race had begun nearly 3 weeks earlier, in the suburban headquarters of Warrington-online.com. The Editor came rushing up to our table excitedly, narrowly missing the Starbucks waitress, who was clearing away the coffee cups.
“This has got to be the story of the century,” he wheezed, collapsing into a chair. “A major zoological expedition to find a long-lost species of wildlife!”
David Attenborough going after the Abominable Snowman is he?” asked Ted, slurping noisily at the dregs of his Frappucino.
“Better than that.” The Editor produced a sheaf of printouts from various Web pages, “This story is all over the Internet and Twitter’s on fire. The Fortean Times is going to look for the Mongolian Death Worm!”


Mongolian Death Worm


“Again?” yawned Ted, idly scratching his beer-gut. “Didn’t they go a few years ago?”
“No, mate, that was a Czech.” And so the story unfolded.

The first known reference in English seems to have come from Professor Roy Chapman Andrews’ 1926 book On the Trail of Ancient Man. He had talked with the Mongolian Prime Minister who wanted to catch the Mongolian Death Worm, or Olgoi Khorkhoi, because the worm had killed one of his relatives.

Quite well-respected in his own time, Professor Chapman Andrews achieved posthumous fame as the inspiration for the character of Indiana Jones.

Inspiration of a different sort was provided by a short story about Olgoi-Khorkhoi from the Russian palaeontologist, Ivan Yefremov. In 1942/1943 he wrote about a worm, which resembled a bloody intestine, that could grow to the length of a small man and mysteriously kill people at great distance, possibly with poison or electricity.

Filled with such scientific material was the boyhood reading of the foremost investigator of the Mongolian Death Worm, Czech author Ivan Mackerle. When he grew up, he searched for the Worm on two occasions in 1990 and 1992, using night-vision goggles and camera-equipped ultralight planes.

The Mongolian Dea


Ivan Mackerle


th Worm was brought to the general attention of the English -speaking public by British zoologist Karl Shuker in his 1996 book The Unexplained. This was followed a year later by his Fortean Studies paper on this subject, presented to his colleagues, among whom was Ivan Mackerle.

The presentation must have had a stimulating effect, as in 2003, Adam Davies and Andy Sanderson from Extreme Expeditions travelled to Mongolia to have a look for the fabled beast , funded by The Fortean Times.

In 2005, led by British cryptozoologist Richard Freeman, Chris Clark, (physicist), Jon Hare, (science writer) and Dave Churchill, (artist and designer), a joint expedition by E-Mongol and the Centre for Fortean Zoology examined reports and sightings of the Mongolian Death Worm, but found no proof that it exists.

This did not deter a second expedition in July, 2006, conducted by the reality-television series, Destination Truth, who, sadly, did not find any truth in the reality of Olgoi Khorkhoi when they reached their destination.

And now, July 2009, just in time for the start of the silly season, New Zealand TV entertainment journalist David Farrier and cameraman Christie Douglas were about to spend two weeks in the Gobi desert. They believe that explosives are the best way to find the “intestine worm” as it is said to be attracted to tremors.

Any suggestion that they may have been influenced by films about Graboids is, of course, unfair.

The widely-differing methods of investigation, and the fact that no expedition has yet succeeded has come as no surprise to Mongolian scientist D. Tsevegmed, who was quoted in the Ulan Bator News as saying that “Mongolians consider that there are 33 different Gobi Deserts, and there are two kinds of death worm in the Gobi.”

“But these articles all say the same thing,” objected Ted. “And I don’t see anything published by scientific journals or other reputable sources.”

“What are you talking about? There are reports here from Cryptozoology News, the Australian Courier Mail, and the Ulan Bator Post and Mongol News. Plus there’s a piece in Wikipedia. You don’t think anyone would put a joke article there, do you?” nodded The Editor, basking in self-delusion. “I can see it now. It’ll be ‘Build A Better Mousetrap’ all over again. Just get confirmation of the Mongolian Death Worm, and everyone and his dog will want to RSS our feeds. All you need are your mobile phones. Take some pictures, record a sound bite or two, blog it on your laptop, and Robert’s your father’s brother. It’ll be a great adventure for the two of you. Is that clear, Bill?”
“Yes, Ben”.
“Right,” said Ted

Events had moved swiftly after that. The Editor pawned his new Swiss army knife and mortgaged his greenhouse to finance the trip. I had topped up my mobile, and Ted bought a new battery for the laptop. And now here we were, following Genghis into an acrid, smoke-filled yurt that bore the legend – Teahouse of the Death Worm Moon.

We gazed round in astonishment. The wicker walls were papered over with photos and drawings of Olgoi Khorkhoi – the very same photos we had seen on the Internet. Pride of place had been given to a full-size poster of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, with Harrison Ford’s name crossed out and Roy Chapman Andrews written in shaky bright red crayon.

At the far end, a rickety camp table was covered with plasticine rejects from Jurassic Park VI , and a wizened Japanese in steel-rim spectacles and a topi sat behind it, looking for all the world like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s and painting eyes on what appeared to be a cross between a Chinese dragon and a Martian stick insect. Every now and then he reached out and tilted the head of a bored-looking iguana whose tongue cast after flies with the world-weary insouciance characteristic of all artists’ models.

“Disfella Hirohito, boss,” said Genghis proudly. “Him very famous man. Work on olla big ones – Godzilla, King Kong, Krakatoa East Of Java.”
“Special effects?” said Ted, doubtfully.
“So, what..?”
“Him make Death Worm so juju men not go way disappointed. Last time he get here too late.”

It turned out that Hirohito had made a career out of following myth hunters and paranormal investigators. Staying just out of sight, he would provide them with tantalising glimpses of whatever it was they were seeking. Perhaps it was just as well that he was never up close and personal since he tended to have what might be called a gestalt approach to his craft – more Rolf Harris than Gauguin.

This lack of fine detail had got him into trouble more than once. He it was who had dressed his pet and uber-model, Iggy, in a skirt and tried to get him discovered as the Kimono Dragon. On another occasion, he had been stymied by Dian Fossey, who had been quick to publish her book before he could photoshop Godzillas in the Mist.

His career was now at a cusp, and when a villager came in with news that the New Zealanders had gone to the 32nd Gobi by mistake, he seemed to lose heart. All this effort for nothing.

It was close to noon by now, and the metal table top had heated to an uncomfortable degree. Iggy gazed piteously at Ted, lifting first one foot, then another, rocking from side to side in an effort to get some relief.
“Poor little monster,” remarked Ted to Hirohito. “Can’t you put a cloth on the table for him? Then he wouldn’t have to rock so much.”

No one else paid any attention. The feeling of disappointment was palpable. No scientists, no discoveries, and more importantly, no tourist trade spin-offs. We picked up our mobiles and Twittered to the world at large that the Mongolian Death Worm had once again declined to put in an appearance.

After a final round of farewell handshakes with our hosts we commiserated with the little make-up artist on the failure of yet another of his enterprises and wished him good luck for the future. But where would he go from here?

As we turned to depart, Hirohito crouched in front of his pet, swaying from side to side in time with the iguana’s dance. His spectacles gleamed with the fanaticism of one who has discovered the Holy Grail as he picked Iggy up and whispered a mantra, “Rock Less Monstah.”

Reviewing the Situation

Everybody’s a critic these days. The Age of Information has dawned and there is simply no limit to our ability to tell the world what we think. Or is there?


Information travelling through the Web


We can view what sites we like on the web, and Twitter can tell the world instantly whether we like it or not. Sure, there’s a limit to the number of characters that can be used, but LOL, OMG, WTF, and all the other alphabetti spaghetti get the message across that you liked what you saw. Or not as the case may be.

Is it being too pedantic to declare that these statements are just that; statements? They are a thumbs up or down, a vote for the one with the biggest…assets, a hand in the air saying “Please, sir, me, sir, I know, sir!” They respond to the question, “Do you have an opinion – Y/N. Tick one and go to the next section.”

It is the ‘next section’ that concerns us, the one that asks, “Explain your opinion (be brief)”.

An example is called for. Here is a selection of reviews taken from StumbleUpon pages:
love it
nice representation
i was impressed
This is an interesting idea
That is sooo cool!
WOW…..Just damn!

These are all from different sites., and they are supposed to be reviews.

Really, they are just comments, like this spam comment from The Works of George Berkley (honestly, that’s how it is signed) in response to the post Rock and Roll; “rock and roll”.

Now, since George was a philosopher,albeit now deceased, this is probably a highly profound comment. In fairness, the post does actually refer to George in passing.

These so-called reviews, however, are just obscure;

“It reminds me of that Star Trek TNG episode where they find out that criminals from another civilization actually are suffering from a brain defect… It’s another reason I don’t believe in the death penalty.”

“How amazing and awesome is this! I wonder how they did it. Mix your own YouTube song, of sorts…”

“Stumble must be tied to the ECCO or something because I was listening to a Chomsky lecture talking about the same thing today.”

And the list goes on.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you happen to be looking at the article/picture/song under review at the time, then at least you know what the comment (!) is about. But, (picky, picky) it isn’t a review if it doesn’t tell you what it’s about.

Oh, then, you say, if that’s all….Now wait a minute. Here are ALL the reviews for Twittley;

First up, so you know what we’re talking about, here’s the official ‘About Us’ column from twittley.com;

About us
What is twittley?
Twittley is first Twitter social news website made for people to discover and share content through Twitter network, by submitting links and stories, and voting and commenting on submitted links and stories.

With me so far? OK, now here are the 7 reviews for the site:

1) Twittley is first Twitter social news website made for people to discover and share content through Twitter network

2) Twittley is first Twitter social news website made for people to discover and share content through Twitter network

3) From the page: “Twittley is first Twitter social news website made for people to discover and share content through Twitter network

4) Twittley is first Twitter social news website made for people to discover and share content through Twitter network

Are you beginning to sense a trend here?

5) Twittley is first Twitter social news website made for people to discover and share content through Twitter network, by submitting links and stories, and voting and commenting on submitted links and stories

6) From the page: “Twittley is first Twitter social news website made for people to discover and share content through Twitter network, by submitting links and stories, and voting and commenting on submitted links and stories


Cute Princess


And finally, my personal favourite, from CutestPrincess (cool name!);

7) Twittley – About us

Aaall righty, then. But let’s not be too harsh; 2 of the reviewers did at least say they were quoting from the page in question, and by this time, I think we all know what Twittley is.

So, here it is. Your task, Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to Twitter a review of this article, using words of no less then one syllable, describing what the article is about and giving reasons for whether you like it or not.

Closing date for the competition will be when we get a reply.

All replies, regardless of content (asking for trouble, I know) will be published on this blog under the title ‘Right of Reply’.

Prizes have yet to be found, but I reckon Twittley should sponsor this, what do you say?

Discovering Warrington


Map of England and Wales, showing Anglo-Saxon ...
Image via Wikipedia


“D’you hear that, lads? We must be nearly there now.”

Weary grunts and the splash of oars were the only response as the helmsman, Cnot, steered the longboat toward the sound of the river going over the weir. As he took stock of the surrounding countryside, he dared to hope that this time it would be different, that this time he would finally make his mark.

Coming as he did from a long line of Norse sailors, he was used to the rough and ready humour of his comrades as they went a-viking round the Celtic seas. But the worst thing any of his cousins had to put up with was being told to ‘paddle yer own Canut”. As a growing lad, he had had to learn not to cringe at the never-changing repartee that followed when he was asked who he was, and had to reply, “I’m Cnot, the Explorer”.

But in his mind’s eye, the weir and its approaches segued into the burgeoning town he fondly imagined would be called after its founder; the homestead of Cnots’ people – Cnottingham.

History, however, had other ideas.

In the centuries that followed,settlers and invaders of various denominations would arrive at this, the shallowest point on the border river. Adhering to the yet-to-be-written rules of internet communication,  they would uniquely reference the location of their site at a nodal point to which all traffic would have to be bussed, M6 permitting.

Strangely, in spite of this protocol, none of these early arrivals were in fact American, although they evinced many of the same qualities, including a mania for naming things. So what did they call this place? Stay with me, this may take some time.

The pre-Roman inhabitants, Danes, Anglo Saxons, and anyone else who happened to be passing by knew that river valleys produce good farmland.And so they established their farmstead, or ‘tun’ in Old English, next to the river dam, or ‘wearing’. With a sense of the bleeding obvious which subsequent generations were wont to overdo, the settlement was known as ‘farmstead by the weir’ – Wearingtun.

When the Romans came along, they established their craft centre and curio shop at Howley, a mile or so downriver. Sadly, in his holiday reports for Baedecker’s Ancient Britain, Julius Ceasar gave no indication as to why they shunned the original location. There are those – xenophobes I calls ’em – who hold that Italian logic could not cope with the fact that a solid Roman road, or Via, was pronounced that same as a river crossing. Be that as it may, Wearingtun seemed set fair as the winner of  Name That Town.

And then the Normans came and cocked it up.

Gallicly ignoring the name by which the parishioners of St. Elphin’s knew their town, and having more trouble with their ‘l’s and ‘r’s than a Japanese in a laurel shrubbery, King William’s clerks left the name to posterity in the Domesday Book as Wallintune. This inclined Angevin and Plantagenet kings to think that the place had something to do with Hadrian, and that Strathclyde, north of the border, started in Lancashire.

No change there, then.

To be fair to the French, if we really must, they could have been misled by the court of King Edward the Elder which,  a few years earlier in 923 had established a fortified city, no less, at Thelwall, less than a mile or so upriver. Being blessed with linguistic savoir faire, or so they would have us believe, they perhaps deduced that a wall of thels, or planks was connected with the downriver settlement.

But, just like their rugby, they only got one half right. Had they consulted their Funk and Wagnall (Continental Edition), they would have realised that the name Thelweale referred to a plank bridge, not a wall, across a deep pool, or weale. The pool in question being the Mersey, as any Scouser knows.

This river, the Meares Ea, or Border River, had marked the boundary between Mercia and Northumbria even in Cnot’s day, and so was of considerable strategic importance. It had always been the practice of early rulers to award the governance of the wild frontiers to the more powerful of their warlords, mainly on the assumption that if they were fighting the barbarian hordes, they were less likely to be plotting to overthrow the sovereign, seated in stately, soft Southern comfort.

In their turn, these Marcher Lords would appoint senior members of their household as castellans and revenue officials, or reeves to look after their various forts and county holdings.

How appropriate, then, that by the time of the Tudors , the High Shire Reeve of the district, with his castle in Bewsey, was the latest scion of the Jeeveses-in-residence to the Earls of Chester, one Sir Thomas le Boteler. He it was who, by the diligent taxing of his county, in 1526 left enough money in his will to endow one of the earliest grammar schools in England.

The Viking founders were old bones by then, of course, and never even had a look-in at the Naming Game. Poor  Cnot. If only he’d spelled his name with a K and found a ford instead of a weir…

But these are the vicissitudes of language – a vowel added here, a consonant dropped there – much like a mediaeval version of Countdown. By the time Noll Cromwell dropped by and enfranchised an ethnic restaurant in the cottage opposite his old mate Granby’s pub, the township had settled on the spelling and decided to be called Warrington.

All things considered, though, it could have been worse for Warringtonians. An ironic chronicler with a crystal ball and an eye to TV ratings might have been tempted to call the town Cnot’s Landing.

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4379&picture=scary-castle”>Scary Castle</a> by Shari Weinsheimer