Thursday, 31 August 2006

My Dream House


David Niven's house at Saint Jean Cap Ferrat near Nice,France.

Pens On Planes

From Joey deVilla: Travel Advisory for People Flying to the British Isles.

Another thing they don't tell you -- in fact, they don't tell you until the search at the gate: they won't let you bring a pen onto the plane. I only lost a ball-point pen which I'm pretty sure came from Tucows' office supply closet. Others were less fortunate; in the bin where confiscated pens were being collected, I saw a at least a dozen "executive" pens, including Crosses and Mont Blancs. If you're accustomed to carrying an expensive pen, do not take it with you!

Without pens, we had nothing with which to fill out the immigrations and customs forms required for international flights arriving at their first port of entry to the United States. We ended up -- all 172 of us -- sharing the chief flight attendant's pen, passing it from row to row.

Via:

They have finally woken up to the fact that ballpens can be as damaging/more damaging than nail files. So how do we complete our Sudoku now? OR is this only in the states?
... and what if somebody had overpowered the flight attendant and stolen his/her pen?
Anyway, it's time the US did away with those immigration forms - they are meaningless: I know - I completed one and gave a false address. OH NAUGHTY.


Bugs in our Wheely Bins

Electronic spy 'bugs' have been secretly planted in hundreds of thousands of household wheelie bins.

The gadgets - mostly installed by companies based in Germany - transmit information about the contents of the bins to a central database which then keeps records on the waste disposal habits of each individual address.

Already some 500,000 bins in council districts across England have been fitted with the bugs - with nearly all areas expected to follow suit within the next couple of years.

Until now, the majority of bins have been altered without the knowledge of their owners. In many cases, councils which ordered the installation of the devices did not even debate the proposals publicly.

The official reason for the bugs is to 'improve efficiency' and settle disputes between neighbours over wheelie-bin ownership. But experts say the technology is actually intended to enable councils to impose fines on householders who exceed limits on the amount of non-recyclable waste they put out. New powers for councils to do this are expected to be introduced by the Government shortly.

But the revelation that the bins have already been altered ignited a 'Bin Brother' row over privacy and taxes. Conservative MP Andrew Pelling said burglars could hack into the computer system to see if sudden reductions in waste at individual households meant the owners were on holiday and the property empty.

He said: 'This is nothing more than a spy in the bin and I don't think even the old Soviet Union made such an intrusion into people's personal lives.

'It is Big Brother gone mad. I think a more British way of doing things is to seek to persuade people rather than spy on them.'

With the bugging technology, the electronic chips are carefully hidden under the moulded front 'lip' of wheelie bins used by householders for non-recyclable waste. As the bin is raised by the mechanical hoister at the back of the truck, the chip passes across an antenna fitted to the lifting mechanism. That enables the antenna to 'read' a serial number assigned to each property in the street.

A computer inside the truck weighs the bin as it is raised, subtracts the weight of the bin itself and records the weight of the contents on an electronic data card.

When the truck returns to the depot, all the information collected on the round is transmitted to a hand-held device and downloaded on to the council's centralised computer. Each household can be billed for the amount of waste collected - even though they have already paid for the services through their council tax.

Although the chip itself is worth only about £2, fitting the equipment to a dustcart costs around £15,000.

Town hall chiefs say the monitoring system will improve recycling rates by allowing them to identify areas which are not doing enough.

LINK:

World's Youngest Mother

Lina Medina (born September 27, 1933 in Paurange, Peru) gave birth at the age of 5 years, 7 months and 21 days and is the youngest confirmed mother in medical history.

Lina was brought to a hospital by her parents at the age of 5 years because of increasing abdominal size. She was originally thought to have had a tumor, but her doctors determined she was in the seventh month of pregnancy. Dr. Gerardo Lozada took her to Lima, the capital of Peru, prior to the surgery to have other specialists confirm that Lina was in fact pregnant. A month and a half later, on May 14, 1939, she gave birth to a boy by a caesarean section necessitated by her small pelvis. The surgery was performed by Drs. Lozada and Dr. Busalleu, with Dr. Colretta providing anaesthesia. Her case was reported in detail by Dr. Edmundo Escomel to La Presse Medicale, along with the additional details that her menarche had occurred at 8 months of age, and prominent breast development by 4 years. By age 5 her figure displayed pelvic widening and advanced bone maturation.

Her son weighed 2.7 kg (5.9 lbs) at birth and was named Gerardo after her doctor. Gerardo was raised believing that Lina was his sister, but found out that she was his mother at the age of ten. He grew up healthy but died in 1979 at the age of 40 of a disease of the bone marrow.

There was never evidence that Lina Medina's pregnancy occurred in any but the usual way, but she never revealed the father of the child, nor the circumstances of her impregnation. She refused an interview with Reuters in 2002. Medina later married Raúl Jurado, who fathered her second son in 1972. They live in a poor district of Lima known as Chicago Chico ("Little Chicago").

Wikipedia:

A Detailed Snopes.com article

Lake Peigneur: The Swirling Vortex of Doom

Damn Interesting --- and funny in a strange sort of way !!

Papercut Art

These are really clever - see more here : Link.


Obituary: Glenn Ford

BBC News:
Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford: May 1, 1916 – August 30, 2006
In more than 100 film appearances and several television series, Glenn Ford's talent lay in bringing his innate nobility to a vast range of characters, from the gun-toting outlaw of 3:10 to Yuma, to the far more complex hero of Gilda.
Although his performance in Gilda propelled Ford to Hollywood's A-list, his debut film appearance came in 1939's Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence, and he always said his favourite films were Westerns.
They came easily to a man who himself raised cattle, horses and claimed descent from a Native American chief.
The Hollywood star got his stage name from the town of Glenford in his native Canada. The son of a railroad executive, young Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford moved to Santa Monica with his family, aged eight.
Catching the acting bug in high school, Ford toured with several stage companies before joining Columbia Pictures in 1939.
Churning out a new film every five days from the studios' B-unit gave the fledgling actor the opportunity to hone his craft.
*
Wartime called a temporary halt to Ford's film career but, an action man on and off the screen, he spent the time serving with the Marines.
Back in Hollywood, his career flourished and he was paired with such leading ladies as Bette Davis in A Stolen Life (1946), and the same year with Rita Hayworth in Gilda, Ford's own favourite film.
Although married by then to actress Eleanor Powell, Ford later admitted his love for Hayworth had authenticated their on-screen chemistry.
His performance as the twisted misogynist with the yearning eyes was to herald a six-film partnership with Hayworth and bring Ford his own taste of Hollywood stardom.
During the next few years, this likeable actor proved he was able to repeat the role of tormented hero in such films as The Big Heat (1953) and Human Desire (1954).
But unlike some of his Hollywood contemporaries, Ford dared to extend his range, both to such comedy as Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) and The Gazebo (1959), and the romance of The Loves of Carmen (1948) and Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962).
*
Despite his enormous talent, Ford never failed to return to his original genre.
More than half his films were Westerns, and in films such as The Desperadoes (1943), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) and Cowboy (1958), he showed his mastery of the introspective, tough hero.
By 1958, he was Hollywood's number one male box-office attraction.
Ford's great strength lay in staying strong, silent and believable. And in The Blackboard Jungle and Ransom (both 1955), audiences saw a well-meaning young man, facing threatening situations and showing courage under pressure.
These performances were borne out by Ford's life off screen. A captain of the US naval reserve, he saw service in Vietnam, overcame many health problems, and took up hang-gliding at the age of 64.
Aged 76, he married his young nurse, only to divorce her two months later. This, his fourth marriage, he took in his stride. He once said, "I don't look back. I only think about the next day, the next dinner and the next film."

My personal favourite has to be 'The Sheepman', where he plays a meek mannered but tough sheep rancher who falls for his rival's fiancee (Shirley MacLaine) and causes trouble by driving his sheep through cattle country.

Extraterrestrial visitor in Russian province

Read the full story here http://english.pravda.ru/society/anomal/18-02-2004/4883-alien-0 but be warned the translation is a bit weird in places.

Stop Junk Mail (UPDATED)

Further to yesterday's story about junk mail this is now breaking news on the Royal Mail web site:

You can choose not to receive unaddressed items we deliver on behalf of local and national businesses (this may include communications from local and national government)

The address to write to for Door to Door opt outs is:

Door to Door Opt Outs,
Royal Mail,
Kingsmead House,
Oxpens Road,
OXFORD,
OX1 1RX

or email: optout@royalmail.com

Here's something I found on Rob Hinckley's web site:---

Please be aware (Royal Mail don't tell you this) that the opt-out will lapse after one year, at which point you'll have to do it again. Also, this is quite different from the addressed junk opt-out available via the Mail Preference Service.

Man named UK's top Avon lady

Ananova:

A salesman has become the first male to be named Britain's top Avon lady.
Dave Carter, 37, joined two years ago and has 870 people in his team.

So we are useful for something other than plumbing!!!

EEEYUGHHH!

Britney sandwich for sale on eBay

Pot plants found outside cop shop

Ananova:
A US news reporter uncovered a marijuana plantation - outside the front door of a police station.
Janna Goerdt, of the Duluth News Tribune, found 12 plants growing outside West Duluth police substation in Minnesota.
She heard a rival news team talking about "something interesting" in front of the police station and decided to check it out.
Goerdt took a walk around the building and found the marijuana plants. She plucked one of the leaves and brought it back to the newspaper.
"I needed some evidence," she said. "I didn't know if anyone would believe me. I didn't think it was a big deal. I just thought it was rather amusing."
Duluth City gardner Tom Kasper was given the leaf for inspection and confirmed that it came from a marijuana plant.

.... and the stupid cow just had to blab about it - couldn't keep her big mouth shut.

The Sporadic Chronicle

Just found a comment from Rob Hinckley (see below) - check out his web site here: http://semiskimmed.net/18.html - especially love the post re three men accused of trying to purchase a mythical substance. Great stuff.

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Junk-mail tip postman faces sack

A postman who advised people how to stop junk mail being delivered to their home could lose his job after bosses suspended him for misconduct.
Roger Annies composed and circulated a leaflet about the Royal Mail's opt-out clause for unsolicited mail during his rounds in Barry, south Wales.
Residents are said to be annoyed at their postman's suspension.
A Royal Mail spokeswoman confirmed that a postman employed in Barry was being investigated for "alleged misconduct".
Mr Annies' leaflet read: "As you will have certainly already noticed, your postman is not only delivering your mail; he/she also has to deliver some (anonymous) advertising material called door-to-door items.
"For the near future, Royal Mail plans to increase your advertising mail. This will mean a lot more unwanted post in your letterbox.


"If you complete the slip below and send it to the Royal Mail delivery office, you should not get any of the above-mentioned unwanted advertising."
People who were receiving Mr Annies' leaflets say they are in favour of his actions.
Anthony Vaughan, 64, of Churchfields, Barry, said: "I'm fed up with junk mail. For every letter you receive, you have to put another 14 in the dustbin.
"God knows what businesses think about the amount of junk mail delivered to them.
"I thought it was a good idea and I was going to complete the form that he had delivered.

"Roger was just letting us know what Royal Mail should have told us in the first place. I don't agree with the suspension at all. It's ridiculous."
Father-of-two Mr Annies would not comment about his suspension while it is still under investigation.
Councillor Robert Curtis, who represents the Gibbonsdown ward on the east side of Barry, said: "The service mentioned by the postman is something that I was going to feature in my next newsletter so he has beat me to it.
"Millions of pounds are wasted on leaflets and the environmental damage that does is massive and it is just not needed.
"If we could stop junk mail at the origin we would certainly save councils a lot of money and prevent a lot of environmental damage.
"I suspect the postman should have got permission from his management but I support what he was doing as a principle."
A spokeswoman for the Royal Mail said: "We can confirm that a postman employed at Barry delivery office has been given a precautionary suspension on full pay pending further investigations following an alleged misconduct issue.
"We would not comment further on an individual case."

He should be given a medal and I would like to know more about this opt out service.

Aer Lingus to float in September

Wouldn't it be better if it flew? :-)

Austria kidnap girl mourns captor

An Austrian teenager recovering after spending eight years in an underground cell is grieving for her captor.
Natascha Kampusch, 18, said Wolfgang Priklopil was "part of my life, that's why in a certain way I'm mourning him".
He killed himself by jumping in front of a train after her escape last week. It is still unclear why he abducted her as she was on her way to school.
"Give me time until I can tell my story myself," Ms Kampusch said in her first statement read by her psychiatrist.
She said she understood the media "curiosity" about her life with the kidnapper, but insisted that she would not answer intimate questions.
"Maybe I'll tell a therapist one day or someone else when I feel the need to. Or maybe never. The intimacy only belongs to me."
Ms Kampusch said she and Priklopil had eaten meals and watched television together, and had jointly done the housework.

Priklopil "was not my lord, although he wanted to be - I was just as strong", she added.
"To give you a metaphor - he carried me in his arms but also trampled me underfoot."
She is at a secure location with psychological carers, and police say she has not asked to see her parents again after a brief reunion.
In her statement on Monday, she said she realised "how shocking and worrying" her experience must seem to people.
But she said she did not feel that Priklopil had robbed her of her childhood.
Together they had furnished her room "adequately" soon after he had abducted her, Ms Kampusch said.
She is reported to have wept inconsolably when she was told the man she had to call "master" was dead.

Police suspect she may have been suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome" - a condition where some abductees gradually begin to sympathise with their captors.
Her parents, who separated after her abduction, have complained that they have not been told where she is staying.
Her mother Brigitta Sirny has pleaded to be allowed to see her. She asked in a newspaper interview on Sunday: "Why can I not see my child?"
Austrian police officer Gerhard Lang said the police were not banning contact with Ms Kampusch.
He said she had voluntarily gone to a "safe place" to receive psychological care and protection.
Ms Kampusch, said to be pale and to weigh less than she did as a 10-year-old, managed to flee her abductor on Wednesday after he moved away to take a phone call as she vacuumed his car, it has emerged.
Priklopil threw himself under a train within hours of her escape.
It is not clear what the kidnapper's motives were and whether Natascha was sexually abused during her captivity.
Photos released by police show the underground hiding place in his house, in Strasshof village outside Vienna, where he had purportedly kept her.
The pictures show a small, cluttered, windowless room with wash basin, toilet, bed and cupboards and narrow concrete stairs leading up to a trapdoor.

BBC News:

Text of Natascha's statement to the press:

Monday, 28 August 2006

Britons pay the price on Costa del Scam

Fiona Govan

This is an extract from Saturday's Daily Telegraph concerning an alleged property fraud involving most of the local council:

A short drive from the centre of the glitzy resort of Marbella on the edge of a banana plantation with views over the Mediterranean, the newly built beach front apartment seemed too good an opportunity to miss for Jack and Yvonne Burditt.

The Devonshire couple were looking to invest their life savings on a home to spend their retirement in so they handed over more than €250,000 (£170,000) and moved in right away.

...

The Burditts are among the many victims of an alleged property fraud that has rocked the town of Marbella on the Costa del Sol and landed more than 50 people including the mayor, councillors, developers, estate agents and lawyers in prison, pending trial for fraud, embezzlement and other charges.

In April the Madrid government took the unprecedented step of dismissing the entire town council after an investigation, dubbed Operation Malaya, claimed that it was embroiled in a network of bribes and corruption, siphoning cash from the huge construction boom of Spain's southern coast.

.....

Christopher Winter, a music producer from Rangeworthy, near Bristol, and his wife have £40,000 invested in a rural property in the hills above Marbella that they had hoped to rent out as a holiday home before reselling at a profit.

'We paid the deposit in March 2003 and were due to take possession last spring but before we paid the final £100,000 we found out that the land was not designated for this type of building and it was therefore illegal," he said.

''The decision we have to make now is do we pay the rest and possibly throw good money after bad in the hope that the building is approved or do we pull out, lose the £40,000 and hope for compensation?"

We really feel sorry for him don't we ... no I didn't think so. Even knowing that his property has been built illegally he is still considering buying it - so that he can make a big fat profit.

How Natascha was robbed of her childhood

Kate Connolly

Natascha Kampusch was vacuuming the interior of her captor's BMW when she saw her first chance to flee. While Wolfgang Priklopil took a telephone call in the garage and turned away to be able to hear better over the noise, his skinny 18-year-old captive quietly slipped through the door and on to the street.

Minutes later, her ghost-white, 6st 6lb figure appeared at the kitchen window of a nearby house, and she started banging on the glass in panic.

"She told me she was Natascha Kampusch and asked if I had any newspapers from 1998, when she was abducted," said the pensioner, identified as Inge T, who took her into her house as the hysterical girl cried: "Hurry, or he'll be after you, too."

Only later, after she had called the police, did the old lady realise the significance of the encounter: the emaciated young woman she had just taken in was the girl who had been at the heart of the biggest police hunt in Austrian history.

Over a period of eight years and five months, riverbeds, lakes and gravel pits across the country and over the border into Hungary had been dragged in search of the missing schoolgirl - last seen disappearing into a white van. Even as recently as last Tuesday, the day before her reappearance, an animal cemetery in Vienna had been dug up, following a tip-off by a convicted criminal that her corpse was buried in the grounds.

The police had created computer images of what she might have looked like at various stages of her adolescence and had regularly scoured child pornography websites for any sign of her face. Indeed, it has now emerged that, just weeks into her ordeal, they were metres away from a rescue.

In April 1998, officers had stood in the garage directly above Natascha's bunker-like prison as they questioned Priklopil - a reclusive 36-year-old technician who had been targeted because he was one of 1,000 white-van drivers across the region. Because they found nothing suspicious, they decided that he could not have been the man who abducted her on her way to school a month before.

Accusations that the police gravely let down both Natascha and her family are now rife. But they have been tempered by widespread feelings of guilt that she was failed by Austrian society as a whole. Yet again, Austria - that land of idyllic Alpine landscapes and cowbells, which took decades to deal with its Nazi legacy - has shown its dark side. For all its curtain-twitchers, no one - not even Priklopil's mother or the uncle who lived next door to him - thought to ask who the girl they occasionally glimpsed might be.

After her dash for freedom, it was police officer Sabine Freudenberger who took in a "shivering and milk-white" Natascha at the local police station on Wednesday afternoon and wrapped the jacket of her uniform around the girl's thin frame. Her first request was for a cup of camomile tea.

"She started to tell her story from beginning to end," said Freudenberger. "She was articulate, extremely intelligent and not at all embarrassed." Natascha recounted how she had been plucked off the street, not long after having an argument with her mother before setting out for school. When she saw Priklopil, she said: "I wanted to cross the road… But he told me he'd had his eye on me and would have got me sooner or later." Police are working on the theory that her abductor had temporarily moved into a house close to Natascha's school in order to keep an eye on his prey.

Bundling her into his white van - which, according to an eyewitness, was being driven by someone else - Priklopil told her: "Stay still and lie down - otherwise something will happen to you."

Natascha, then just 10, was driven 11 miles to the run-down Viennese suburb of Strasshof. Once in the safety of his garage, the centre of his warped universe, Priklopil opened a secret door in the floor.

His victim was ordered to climb down some narrow concrete steps, to slip through a square hatch into a tiny outer room, and then to walk through to another door. Behind it was the dank and windowless soundproof cell that would be her home for the best part of the next decade. Police believe that the 10ft by 6.5ft by 5ft cell - equipped with a toilet, a small bath, a bunk bed and a bookcase - had been purpose-built.

Priklopil, known to his neighbours as something of a handyman, must have worked on the prison for weeks. As he did not apply for a building permit, no suspicion was raised.

It was here that Natascha spent a total of 3,097 days - in effect, the rest of her childhood and, crucially, her puberty - without friends, family, fresh air or daylight. She had just a few children's books and some cuddly toys for company, and a radio that Priklopil controlled from the outside by a timer switch. He allowed her to watch only the television programmes that he pre-recorded for her, and fed her, it would seem, on a diet of biscuits and junk food, but no fruit or vegetables.

For the first year, she did not even know her captor's name and was ordered to refer to him as "my master".

Her screams could not penetrate the 330lb hatch. And, if she tried to escape, she was told, the house was wired with explosives that would "grill" her "to the bone".

Then, this spring - indeed, almost from the day she turned 18 in February this year - the nature of Natascha's captivity began to change. She was allowed to call her abductor "Wolfgang". He started allowing her out to mow the lawn and clean his car - and took her on brief shopping trips, during which she was ordered to stay close to his side "or else". There is evidence that they may even have gone on a skiing trip together.

This taste of "freedom" is believed to have emboldened her to make her courageous escape attempt.

The neighbours, meanwhile, were heartened to see that the man they considered to be a weird loner had finally found himself a girlfriend at the age of 44. No one thought to question her sudden appearance, her pallor or her youth.

The team of psychologists now caring for Natascha believe that her transition from the plump little girl he had kidnapped eight years before to a fully grown woman came as a huge blow to Priklopil, whose motives are believed to have been sexual. He may even have planned to murder her.

"It's feasible that because of Natascha's development from an easy-to-control child to a woman, the perpetrator had lost interest in her and had therefore become careless," said Max Friedrich, the psychiatrist leading her team of carers. "Which means that he might well have tried to kill her."

Because Natascha has talked about how kind Priklopil was to her and how "grateful" she was to him, experts say that it is possible she fell in love with her captor. Certainly, long periods of captivity can often lead to Stockholm syndrome, in which prisoners empathise with their jailors.

Despite her release, and the suicide of her kidnapper, Natascha's ordeal is, of course, far from over. The danger that she might commit suicide is high, say psychologists, and investigators warned yesterday that she had "started to close down" and no longer wanted to talk.

Biologically, she is an 18-year-old woman: so strikingly similar, says her father Ludwig Koch, to the police's simulated computer image that he has had it enlarged and put it in a gold frame. Her vocabulary has developed far beyond the words she knew as a 10-year-old. As a result of listening mostly to radio broadcasts, she speaks in the formal high German of radio presenters.

Emotionally, she remains a child. The first thing she asked her father was whether he still had her favourite toy car. There is a risk that, subconsciously at least, her parents will want to keep her that way; to hang on to the daughter whose childhood was robbed from them as well. Her mother, Brigitte Sirny, has described her return as "a rebirth". She has had to equip Natascha with everything from a toothbrush to a new set of size six clothes.

The sheer horror of what happened to this Austrian child has shocked people from all corners of the globe. But it may not be as rare an occurrence as one might think. Every year, thousands of children go missing without trace - 200 of them in Austria alone, a staggering 1,850 in Italy. In Belgium, where Marc Dutroux abducted and killed four female victims, 1,022 disappear annually; and in Britain, around 400. Experts fear that hundreds are being held in private prisons.

Before the end of the year, the EU plans to erect a Europe-wide missing children hotline. It is a small step in the right direction - but neighbourly concern might be rather more effective.

Unfortunately we know that neighbourly concern can also point the finger at the wrong people.


Friday, 25 August 2006

Now how will students learn the planets?

Link: Wichita Eagle
WASHINGTON - "My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas." That and variations on it are the way millions of people learned to remember the names of the planets in the solar system - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. The problem is that an international convention of astronomers decreed Thursday that tiny Pluto no longer meets the definition of a planet.
What a way to spoil a good mnemonic. Now how will students learn the planets?
Some possibilities:
_My Very Extravagant Mother Just Sent Us Nachos.
_My Very Elderly Mother Just Sits Up Nights.
_Major Volcanoes Erupt, Making Jolts, Shaking, Unsteadying Nerves.
_Make Very Extraordinary Meals of Jell-O, Strawberries and Unsalted Nuts.
_Mary's Violet Eyes Make Jack Stare Until Noticed.
_My Very Exotic Mistress Just Showed Up Nude (perhaps this one is for college lads).
The planetary change also spells trouble for science museums.
The National Air and Space Museum, for example, has a popular song called "The Family of the Sun," set to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell," that children love and which helps them learn the planets.
Spokesman Mike Marcus said a decision on rewriting it has not been made yet.

This morning’s playlist

Deep Purple___________________Highway star
Nazareth_____________________Broken down angel
Juicy Lucy____________________Who do you love?
Uriah Heep____________________Look at yourself
Lindisfarne____________________Lady Eleanor
George Thorogood_______________Move it on over
& the Destroyers.
*
LADY ELEANOR
Bashee playing magician sitting lotus on the floor
Belly dancing beauty with a power driven saw
Had my share of nightmares, didn't think there could be much more
then in walked Rodrick Usher with the Lady Eleanor
*
She tied my eyes with ribbon of a silken ghostly thread
I gazed with trouble vision on an old four poster bed
Where Eleanor had risen to kiss the neck below my head
and bid me come along with her to the land of the dancing dead#
*
But it's all right, Lady Eleanor
All right, Lady Eleanor
I'm all right where I am
*
She gazed with loving beauty like a mother to a son
like living, dying, seeing, being all rolled into one
Then all at once I heard some music playing in my bones
the same old song I'd heard for years, reminding me of home
*
But it's all right, Lady Eleanor
All right, Lady Eleanor
I'm all right where I am
*
Then creeping on towards me, licking lips with tongues of fire
a host of golden demons screaming lust and base desire
and when it seemed for certain that the screams could get no higher
I heard a voice above the rest screaming 'You're liar'
*
But it's all right, Lady Eleanor
All right, Lady Eleanor
I'm all right here in your arms

Pluto

So, despite public outcry, astronomers voted to kick Pluto out instead of letting in hundreds of space rocks into the Planet Club

Link:

World’s Longest Fingernails.

WHY are we getting so many postings on the internet of this stupid cow who did not cut her fingernails for 27 years so that she could get herself into the record books. It seems that no matter what site I visit she is there. My god, could she not think of something better to do with her time? Personally I find it so disgusting I am not going to post a photo - I am not posting links either so if you want to see for youself (and god knows why you would want to) then you will just have to google.

Replica Titanic may be doomed

An Inverness man who built a 100ft model of the Titanic in his back garden may be ordered to destroy it.

Maritime enthusiast Stan Fraser, 41, spent six years building the scale replica of the vessel behind his home, reports The Scotsman.

But Highland Council has now warned Mr Fraser that the structure requires retrospective planning permission.

He said: "I'm worried that if I don't get planning permission all the hard work will be down the drain."

The father of five had also been planning to install a working foghorn and lights to twinkle from the portholes.

AAHHH isn't that sweet!

Welsh 'whale vomit' rush

North Wales is facing a gold rush after 'whale vomit' was found washed up on its beaches.

Valuable ambergris - known as floating gold - has recently been found at Rhos on Sea and Shell Island, reports the Daily Post.

Finds of ambergis can be worth around £2,000 - and they could lead to a gold rush among would-be beachcombers.

Ambergis is used to produce perfume and can fetch more than £10 a gram.

It is produced when the whale has been eating squid and their parrot-like beaks have irritated the walls of its innards.

Rarely recovered on British shores, ambergris is usually found on the coasts of the United States and Australia.

EEYUGH!!!

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

product image

Free condoms to woo French voters

BBC News:
France's ruling conservative party has come up with a novel way of trying to woo voters - by handing out condoms and flip-flops with a party logo.
UMP party activists have been touring some 40 beaches across the country to shore up support for the party leader, Nicolas Sarkozy.
The UMP says it wants to engage with groups that do not traditionally associate with the party.

I'm afraid to ask - which groups?
Now which groups traditionally lie on the beach?

China acts on funeral strippers

BBC News:
Five people have been detained in China for running striptease send-offs at funerals, state media say.
The once-common events are held to boost the number of mourners, as large crowds are seen as a mark of honour.
But the arrests, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, could signal the end of the rural tradition.
Local officials have since ordered a halt to "obscene performances" and say funeral plans have to be submitted in advance, Xinhua news agency said.

KILLJOYS!

Austrian girl 'found' after years

BBC News:
Austrian officials are using DNA tests to see whether a young woman they found is the schoolgirl whose disappearance sparked a huge manhunt eight years ago.
The woman says she is Natasha Kampusch, who vanished in 1998 on her way to school at the age of 10.

Bummer!

Ananova:

A Polish man who had his tongue removed has had a new one made using tissue taken from his buttocks.

OK - let's hear all the rude jokes about tongues and buttocks!!

Also on Ananova
A man took a photograph of every meal he ate for a year. SO!?

A 13-year-old girl has beaten three men to become Britain's corn on the cob eating champion. SO!?

Wednesday, 23 August 2006








Does My Hair Look Good?



Wanaka Bra Fence

The Bra Fence started in 1999 between Christmas and New Year. Four Bras appeared on the Fence. Who put them on is unknown to us. It is a well kept secret but the common gossip is that it was a group of Wanaka Ladies. It is clear that others know who they are. Five years on we are still none the wiser even with all the publicity. The rumours are that it was done for fun and a laugh going into the new Century. The ladies were on their way home from an evening at the Cardrona Hotel and decided to usher in the new Century with a little humour, and so the Bra Fence was born.

More:>

Clark Sorensen's URINAL SCULPTURES

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Loire Visit - August 2006 - Orléans


Two very different statues in Orléans - the first of Jeanne d'Arc outside the Hotel Groslot shows Jeanne in pensive mood with her skirt dented by 20th century bullets. The statue is actually by the daughter of Louis-Philippe, last king of France. The second, La Beauce, stands on the north side of the cathedral square and depicts the flat agricultural region north of Orléans in the form of a buxom woman holding golden ears of wheat. A third statue by the father of Jean Paul Belmondo can be found sporting herself on rue Royale.
Statue la baigneuse par Paul Belmondo, rue Royale, inaugurée le 23 juillet 1955.
Orléans doesn't just have statues - it has shops (like Armand Thierry) which my wife will testify to. What it doesn't have is a great jazz club called les cats - which has closed since I was last there. :-(

easyjet and Pirate Ships - The Long Version

While in Orléans I found this terrific toy shop (Du Côté du Bois, 24 Rue Charles Sanglier) and bought this great pirate ship (see photo) for my grandson. As is the custom in France, it was beautifully gift wrapped. A couple of days later we have the alleged terror plot and there is total panic - one of the panic measures being that hand luggage is banned from planes. Well, this package is too large to fit in my suitcase and in my opinion too fragile to be thrown in the luggage hold with all of the suitcases and other luggage, so that when I get to Charles de Gaulle airport at the end of my holiday and I am told by the young woman at the easyjet check-in desk that it will have to go in the hold I of course refuse, pointing out that it is a fragile toy. This pleasant young woman consults with her supervisor, who takes one look at the package and declares that it will have to be put in the luggage hold. Once again I point out that it is a fragile toy and once again she declares that it must go in the luggage hold. So I ask her 'what if it gets broken?' and she just shrugs her shoulders (a very Gallic gesture but not one that endears her to me) so I ask her if she will take responsibility and compensate me if it gets damaged. She now decides that I can try to get it through security and if they refuse to pass it then it will have to go in the hold. I accept this decision and after checking in set off for security (with my backpack full of camera equipment, spectacles + cases etc which they have not even bothered to look at !!). As usual my parcel and backpack are passed through the x-ray equipment and I am allowed to proceed into the boarding lounge (pas de problem).

I am told that my grandson practically sleeps with his new toy.

Mona Lisa World Tour

Africa

USA

India

Swedish blunder puts porn on news

The monitor showed Canal Plus' switch to X-rated contentSwedish state broadcaster SVT has admitted a "huge blunder" after a porn film was accidentally shown in the background of a news bulletin.
A five-minute news update shown at the weekend included explicit scenes from a Czech porn movie on a monitor behind the anchor Peter Dahlgren.
"This is highly embarrassing and unfortunate," said SVT's Per Yng. The monitor had been switched by workers who had then forgotten to change it back, he told agency AP. "It must not happen again," he added.

Usually, the monitor shows the output of other news channels - but the workers had changed it to watch a sports event on cable channel Canal Plus. However, they did not remember to change the channel back - which, because Canal Plus shows adult content after midnight, resulted in the error.

A likely story!!!!!!

A producer quickly spotted the sex scenes and ran into the control room and turned off the monitor, news director Mr Yng said. "One monitor in the background, behind the newsreader, was showing some porn scenes," he said. "It lasted no more than 30 seconds - only during the first item on the midnight news on Saturday."
While no viewers complained about the incident, he admitted there had been "enormous interest from media." The show, called Rapport, has been renamed "Rapporn" by Swedish tabloids. Magnus Akerlund, who oversees the hourly news updates, told Swedish newspapers he was "shocked and dismayed" at the mistake. "It's a huge blunder by us," he said.

Tourism dynamo of Down



Joe Boyle BBC News
As part of a series of features studying the UK's seaside towns, the spotlight falls on Newcastle in County Down.
As you arrive in the small town of Newcastle, you cannot fail to be struck by the looming presence of the Mourne Mountains.
Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland's highest peak, stands majestic with grey-white clouds clinging to its sweeping green slopes.
Yet the splendour of the topography is hardly matched by the down-at-heel main street, where pound shops vie for space with 1960s shopping centres and amusement arcades.
Young mothers push baby-buggies, bored-looking teenagers loiter idly, shopkeepers buzz around, arranging and rearranging their goods.
The wind rips through the street and motorists sit in queues of traffic, gridlocked.
It could be a scene on any high street in any UK town.
But that is a misconception corrected after a day in Newcastle, hearing stories of Tiger Woods being dropped at the local hotel by helicopter.
Big plans
Running parallel to the main street is the newly-built promenade. Its shiny metal railings and freshly-laid walkways flank the seafront, punctuated by dazzling metal sculptures and low-rise blocks of modern apartments.
The new promenade is part of a £14 million regeneration project that is a source of considerable local pride - residents almost universally describing it as "fantastic".

Man fined over cigarette ash

A driver has been handed a £75 fine for flicking his cigarette ash out of his car window.
Alan Joyce, from Poole, Dorset, was sent a fixed penalty notice telling him to pay the fine within 14 days or face court action.
He was told that a council officer had reason to believe he was "dripping his cigarette" while driving his car.
Mr Joyce, 68, who plans to pay the fine but lodge a complaint, said: "To me that is not worth being branded a litter bug. I am really annoyed. I can't remember doing it so I can't deny it. But it is annoying when you see other things like the chewing gum on the streets and the litter left in my garden."
According to the Mirror Poole councillor Don Collier said: "Poole operates a vigilant fixed penalty notice scheme to discover people who are littering our town. The people of Poole won't tolerate littering."

So what's the problem here? He should be castrated. Doesn't he know the damage he is doing to other people with his smoking? And flicking cigarette ash out of a car window can be dangerous for the driver following if he happens to have his window open - if you have ever suffered from ash in the eye then you know what I mean. Plus the smell of somebody else's smoke in your car is really annoying. Shall I go on????

Crashed car gets parking ticket

A parking warden has been criticised for writing out a ticket for a car - after it had been involved in a crash.
The VW Golf was slapped with a £100 fixed penalty fine within hours of the accident.
Amazingly, the stranded car was given another ticket the next day by the same warden.
Passerby James Pennant said: "I was flabbergasted. The VW was clearly undriveable and the car it hit was on the other side of the road.
"It was obviously the scene of an accident. Someone could have been killed or badly injured - but that didn't stop him writing out a ticket. I told the warden what he was doing was atrocious but he just told me to go away."
It is believed no one was hurt in the accident in Barkingside, Essex.
A spokesman for parking firm APCO apologised and said the tickets would be cancelled.
According to the Mirror he added: "When the attendant arrives for his next shift he will be asked why on earth he did what he did."

We all know why he did what he did, apart from being a mini Hitler, it boosts his target figures.

Land trip to Oz to cut pollution

Ananova:
A woman is travelling 9,770 miles to be a bridesmaid at a wedding in Australia because she does not want to boost pollution by flying.
Barbara Haddrill's six-week journey will cost her £2,000, reports the Mirror.
She says it will produce only 1.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide instead of 5.2 tonnes if she flew.
She said: "I could never fly, it wouldn't be right. It's a challenge going overland. But it's worth it knowing I'm not harming the planet. I just hope I get to the church on time."
Barbara, 28, plans to travel 1,560 miles by bus to Moscow. From there, she rides the Trans-Siberian railway 3,600 miles to Beijing where she gets on a train for Singapore 2,770 miles away. Once there she boards a boat for final destination Brisbane 3,840 miles away.
Barbara, who lives in a caravan in a forest, works on alternative technology in Machynlleth, Powys.
She has not yet planned her journey back.
She vowed: "Definitely no planes. I'll find a different route."

Why doesn't the silly cow stay at home and not cause any pollution at all?
Has she considered the other factors of her journey that may cause pollution - like breathing?

Monday, 21 August 2006

Quote of the Day

Youth is the gift of nature,
but age is a work of art.
Stanislaw Lec.

Easyjet and pirate ships

I would like to inform the easyjet check-in supervisor at Charles de Gaulle airport that my grandson loves the pirate ship that I refused to let be put in the luggage hold. Some things are worth fighting for!!

Gel-filled bras OK on planes, despite security

Don't try to bring a tiny tube of lip-moisturizing gel on board an airliner these days, or wear thin gel inserts to make your shoes more comfortable. And leave your cold and cough gel-caps at home.

But, ladies and cross-dressing gents, no one will check if you wear your gel-filled bras right onto the plane.

Despite the fact that these hugely popular undergarments are owned by millions worldwide and have the capacity to carry enough liquid or gel explosives to make a terrorist smile, the Transportation Security Administration has not included them on the new list of items forbidden from carry-on baggage.

In the travel tips listed on the agency's Web site — www.tsa.gov — mention is made of "gel-filled bras," but mostly in the context of those worn as prosthetics by breast-cancer survivors who have undergone mastectomies.
Such passengers are urged to pack their bras in their checked baggage, but also advised that those with "medical gel" prosthetics will be allowed through security checkpoints.

Mutiny At The Airport


Mutiny as passengers refuse to fly until Asians are removed.

British holidaymakers staged an unprecedented mutiny - refusing to allow their flight to take off until two men they feared were terrorists were forcibly removed.

The extraordinary scenes happened after some of the 150 passengers on a Malaga-Manchester flight overheard two men of Asian appearance apparently talking Arabic.

Passengers told cabin crew they feared for their safety and demanded police action. Some stormed off the Monarch Airlines Airbus A320 minutes before it was due to leave the Costa del Sol at 3am. Others waiting for Flight ZB 613 in the departure lounge refused to board it.

The Asians were removed, they did a security sweep, the plane took off late, and everyone was happy -- except the Asians.

Patrick Mercer, the Tory Homeland Security spokesman, said last night: "This is a victory for terrorists. These people on the flight have been terrorised into behaving irrationally.


Actually one of the other frightening things is that Britain now appears to have a minister for homeland security --- just like America. When did this happen? The first you hear of it is when it is mentioned in passing in a news item.

Who says Britain isn't the 53rd state?


The Terror Plot

These make for very interesting reading ... and I'm glad to see I'm not the only person who can be accused of believing in conspiracy theories :-)

Stuck at Heathrow Airport Experience.

The UK Terror plot: What's really going on?

On the implausibility of the explosives plot.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

Ouch!

Deckchair trapped testicles

A Croatian man got a nasty surprise when he tried to get out of his deck chair and found his testicles had got stuck.

Mario Visnjic had gone swimming naked in the sea at the Valalta beach in western Croatia, reports 24sata.

His testicles had shrunk while in the cool sea and slipped through the wooden slats when he sat back down on his wooden deckchair.

But as he lay in the sun they expanded back to normal size and got stuck between the slats.

Girl weds in 28 stone dress

A 20-year-old has married in a dress weighing 28 stone.

Josephine Doherty spent two hours getting into the £25,000 dress to marry her fiance, Tom Delaney, in Tolworth, Surrey.

It took eight best men and five bridesmaids to carry the 60ft train.

It took her 30 minutes to get into her Cinderella-style horse-drawn coach for a four-hour trip to the reception - where the cake had 40 tiers.

According to The Sun she said: "I had always dreamed of a fairytale wedding."

Her gown beats the 25st dress record set by Carly O'Brien, 16, in Gloucester six weeks ago.

So now it's 'Lets see who can be more stupid than Carly O'Brien? time'

Woman sues weather forecasters

A Russian woman is suing weather forecasters for ruining her holiday with incorrect predictions.

Alyona Gabitova told the court in the central Russian town of Uljanovsk that she had been promised temperatures of 28 degrees and constant sunshine during her weekend camping trip to a nearby nature park, but instead got wet through when it did nothing but pour down with rain the entire time.

She added that she had come back from the short holiday with a cold and is now demanding the local weather service refund her travel costs, according to Nowyje Iswestija newspaper.

The court is yet to make a decision on the woman's claim.

What is she so upset about? It could have been worse ..... just ask Phil Newbon.

Binmen get rid of luggage

For those of you who have spent hours recently in airport boarding lounges arguing with check in staff about what you can or cannot take on a plane then just be thankful that this did not happen to you.

A man who had just returned home from holiday had his luggage thrown away by dustmen.

Phil Newbon from Spalding, Lincs, left his luggage on the pavement as he returned home when he glanced back he realised it was being crushed by grinders inside the back of their dustcart.

His clothes, mobile phone, sat-nav, digital camera and gifts for family and friends were destroyed. Even his duty free was being crunched up.

Phil, who says the total value was £1,600, said: "I couldn't believe my eyes. I only left my bags there while I chatted to a pal after getting a lift back from the airport.

"Then they were gone and everything was being smashed to pieces. I thought I was being set up for a TV stunt. The council told me people often leave suitcases out for collection and I'm sure that's true.

"But I doubt they have 25kg of luggage inside, tags still attached and a bag of hand luggage and duty-free next to them."

Phil is now trying to get compensation from South Holland council, Lincs, but says he has been told he will not get a penny.

LINK:

Toddler told not to be sick

A woman was let off her parking ticket after her toddler was sick on the way to the car.

A parking ticket boss let Laurie Ward off the £30 fine but told her: "Please make sure your daughter only vomits within pay and display time."

Laurie, from Brighton, was not amused. She said: "It was an attempt at humour. This is not the way I expect to be treated by a public body."

I heard this on the news and thought ' right why don't they treat her the way she expected to be treated and not only fine her but lock her up and throw away the key. After all what is the world without a bit of humour?'

The Chinese chariot (221BC)


Daily Express: 18/08/06

A team of horses lay frozen at the gallop, revealed to the world after thousands of years. Archaeologists digging at Luoyang, in China’s central Henan province, were astonished to find the animals’ perfectly preserved remains laid out in eerie symmetry, still tethered to the chariot they had been pulling.

Historians believe the remains date from the Eastern Zhou dynasty, which ended in the year 221BC. If that is correct, it would make the chariot with its delicately spoked wheels, a marvel of engineering for its time.

Theories about how the horses came to be entombed include death on the battlefield or in a landslide.

However, some experts think the careful, almost ceremonial arrangement of the animals could indicate that they were laid to rest with care, possibly alongside their owner.

The Other Woman


Having just returned from 2 weeks of sun, culture and cuisine I will no doubt be boring the pants off most of you with tales of my trip along the Loire valley. Stay with me - you just might find some of it interesting. On my travels I encountered 2 women whose stories seem to be entwined with that of the Loire. The first - Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) - you all know about so I won't be telling you about her (yet!) though I do have some great photos of statues of her that I will be posting in the near future (I'm sure you can hardly contain your excitement.)

The other woman is Agnès Sorel. Agnès Sorel, surnamed Dame de beauté, was a mistress of King Charles VII of France. The daughter of a soldier, Jean Soreau, and of Catherine de Maignelais, Sorel was twenty years old when she was first introduced to King Charles. At that time, she was holding a position in the household of Rene I of Naples, Charles' brother-in-law. As reflected in art of the day, she was an extraordinarily beautiful young woman, and was also extremely intelligent. The French king was immediately smitten by her charms and he gave her the Château de Loches as her private residence, and took her as his mistress. (Château de Loches is also where Jeanne d'Arc convinced the dauphin that it was time to be crowned king in Reims.)

Soon, her presence was felt at the royal court in Chinon where her company was alleged to have brought the king out of a protracted depression. She had a very strong influence on the king, and that, in addition to her extravagant tastes, earned her a number of powerful enemies at court.

Agnès gave birth to three daughters: Marie de Valois, Charlotte and Jeanne de France. While pregnant with their fourth child, she joined Charles on the campaign of 1450 in Jumièges, wanting to be with him as moral support. There, she suddenly became ill and died on February 9 at the age of 28. While the cause of death was originally thought to be dysentery, scientists have now concluded that Agnès died from being poisoned by mercury, making it possible that she was a victim of murder.

Charles' son, the future King Louis XI, had been in open revolt against his father for the previous four years. It has been speculated that he poisoned Agnès in order to remove what he may have considered her undue influence over the king. It was also speculated that French financier, noble and minister Jacques Coeur poisoned her, though that theory is widely discredited as an attempt to remove Coeur from the French court.

Agnès Sorel's death was premature: she was only about 28 years old. To clarify the cause, a team led by Dr. Charlier from the CHU hospital in Lille is studying her remains through a variety of techniques. Hair and bits of skin have been examined in minute detail using the X-rays of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. They have unveiled some indications that could lead researchers to discover the cause of Sorel's death. X-ray micro fluorescence experiments were performed on beamline ID18F at the ESRF. Scientists found that Sorel's remains contained abnormal levels of mercury.

This chemical element appears in the body of people who have been poisoned; nevertheless, one should not come to premature conclusions. Mercury is also present in pharmaceutical purgative treatments. Scientists found eggs from worms in other parts of her body, as well as remains of a plant used during that period to treat these worms. This could indicate that she was trying to heal herself by taking medicines and that she ingested too high a dose, which caused her death. Other possible sources of mercury contamination could have been the result of mummification or contamination from the mummies' environment. There is also a hypothesis that she could have accumulated these metals throughout her life, for instance, by using cosmetics, since they often contained metals. According to Dr. Charlier, "the results from the experiments at the ESRF, in contrast with experiments carried out in other institutes, have proven that mercury did not enter her hair after death but before, and that it was the cause of death". LINK:

The bare breast in the portrait is apparently not a flight of fancy of the artist Jean Fouquet but a fashion introduced to the French court by Agnès herself (that's my kind of woman).


Agnès Sorel devint la favorite du roi de France Charles VII.

Le lieu de sa naissance divise encore les historiens. Certains pensent qu’elle est née à Fromenteau en Touraine, d’autres situent cette naissance en Picardie, à Coudun, d’où, il est vrai, étaient originaires son père, Jean Soreau ou Jean Sorel, seigneur de Coudun, près de Compiègne, sa mère, Catherine de Maignelais, châtelaine de Verneuil-en-Bourbonnais. Agnès Sorel n'était pas l'enfant unique de ce couple, elle avait quatre frères : Charles Sorel, André Sorel, Jean Sorel et Louis Sorel. Certains membres de la famille ne sont pas inconnus pour les historiens : Geoffroy Sorel, évêque et Jean de Maignelais, capitaine de Creil. Comment la fille de Jean Soreau devint-elle Agnes Sorel ? Fut-elle marié avec Regnaut de Sorel comme le dit Le Vasseur?

C’est en Picardie qu’elle reçut une éducation soignée. On l’y prépara à occuper à la cour la charge enviée (non pour les avantages matériels qu’elle procurait (Agnès recevait dix livres par an) de demoiselle de compagnie d'Isabelle de Lorraine, reine de Sicile et femme du roi René. Cette charge lui était destinée dès son plus jeune âge du fait de sa naissance et des recommandations dont elle bénéficiait.

Sa jeunesse et sa beauté vont très rapidement la faire remarquer par le roi de France, Charles VII, le petit roi de Bourges, ce dauphin sans beauté, sans grande intelligence et sans fortune, fils d'un roi fou et d'Isabeau de Bavière, considérée par nombre de ses contemporains comme une ogresse (peut-être à cause de ses appétits que le roi ne pouvait satisfaire à cause de sa folie).

Pierre de Brézé, qui a remarqué les regards de son suzerain pour cette nouvelle venue à la cour, présente à Charles VII celle qui sera regardée comme la plus jolie femme du royaume.

Très rapidement, en 1444, Agnès Sorel passe du rang de demoiselle d’honneur d’Isabelle de Lorraine à celui de première dame officieuse du royaume de France. Officiellement, elle est demoiselle de la maison de la reine Marie d'Anjou. Elle a le statut de favorite officielle, ce qui est une nouveauté : les rois de France avaient jusque là des maîtresses mais elles devaient rester dans l'ombre. Charles VII a d'ailleurs eu d'autres maîtresses, mais elles n'ont pas eu l'importance d'Agnès Sorel. Son art de vivre et ses extravagances rejettent la reine dans l’ombre. Les voiles et autres guimpes sont abandonnés, et elle invente le décolleté épaules nues qualifié de « ribaudise et dissolution » par les chroniqueurs de l’époque. De vertigineuses pyramides surmontent sa coiffure. Des traînes de huit mètres de long allongent ses robes bordées de fourrures précieuses : martre ou zibeline. En cette année 1444, le roi lui offre 20 600 écus de bijoux dont le premier diamant taillé connu à ce jour.
Pour se procurer ces atours précieux, elle devient la meilleure cliente de Jacques Cœur, marchand international et grand argentier du roi, qui a amassé des trésors venus d’Orient dans son palais de Bourges. Elle consomme de grandes quantités d'étoffes précieuses, et bien sûr, toutes les femmes de la cour l’imitent.
Mais Agnès n’est pas qu’une jeune femme frivole. Elle est aussi une intrigante habile. C’est ainsi qu’elle impose ses amis au roi, ou s'acquiert la faveur des conseillers de la Couronne, qui voient en elle le moyen de s’assurer la bienveillance royale. C’est grâce à ces manœuvres que le roi, en l'espace de quelques mois, lui octroie les fiefs de Beauté-sur-Marne (d’où son surnom de « Dame de Beauté »), Vernon, Issoudun, Roquesezière et lui offre le domaine de Loches.

Le dauphin, futur Louis XI, ne supporte pas la relation d’Agnès avec son père le roi Charles VII. Il estime que sa mère est bafouée et a de plus en plus de mal à l'accepter. Un jour il laisse éclater sa rancœur et poursuit, l’épée à la main, l’infortunée Agnès dans les pièces de la maison royale. Pour lui échapper, elle se réfugie dans le lit du roi. Charles VII, courroucé par tant d’impertinence, chasse son fils de la Cour et l’envoie gouverner le Dauphiné.

Ensuite, s’écoulent de longues années de bonheur, jalonnées par des voyages à travers cette France en forme de S renversé. Agnès attend à Razilly près de Chinon, à Beaulieu près de Loches, à Dames près de Mehun-sur-Yèvre, le retour du guerrier ou du chasseur. Croyante, elle fait régulièrement des pèlerinages et des offrandes à l'Église. Elle donne à son royal amant trois filles, les « bâtardes de France », qu'il légitime :

  • Marie de Valois qui épouse, en 1458, le sire de Coëtivy et de Taillebourg.
  • Charlotte qui devient, en 1462, la femme de Jacques de Brézé et sera assassinée par lui quelques années plus tard d'un coup d'épée entre les épaules pour avoir été surprise dans les bras de son amant à quelques pas du lit conjugal.
  • Jeanne de France, née à Beauté-sur-Marne, que Louis XI mariera à Antoine de Bueil.

Ces naissances font écrire aux moralistes Thomas Basin et Jean Jouvenel des Ursins qu’Agnès est responsable du réveil sensuel de Charles VII. Ils jugent sévèrement sa liberté de mœurs et l’accusent de faire de ce roi « chaste » un roi débauché, entièrement soumis à ses maîtresses.

Est-ce Agnès Sorel qui souffle à Charles VII que la réorganisation des finances royales passe par la reconquête de la Guyenne et de la Normandie occupées par les Anglais ? Toujours est il que c'est alors qu'elle allait mettre au monde un quatrième enfant, qu'Agnès entreprend, en plein hiver, d'aller retrouver le roi à Rouen où il commande son armée. Nul ne connaît les raisons de ce voyage ; se languissait-elle de son royal amant, ou voulait elle le prévenir d'un nouveau complot ourdi par le dauphin, futur Louis XI ?

Dès qu’elle est installée par Charles au manoir de la Vigne à Mesnil Sous Jumièges près de Rouen, elle est soudainement prise d'un « flux de ventre » et meurt en quelques heures, non sans recommander son âme à Dieu et à la Vierge Marie. Elle a le temps de léguer ses biens à la collégiale de Loches pour que des messes y soient dites pour le repos de son âme, à l'abbaye de Jumièges où est déposé son cœur, ainsi qu'aux membres de sa famille et au roi à qui elle lègue ses bijoux. Celle qui fut la première maîtresse officielle d’un roi de France, meurt à l’âge de 28 ans à Mesnil Sous Jumièges, le 11 février 1450. L'enfant meurt quelques semaines après elle.

Sa mort est si rapide qu’on croit tout d’abord à un empoisonnement. On accuse même Jacques Cœur, qui fut sans doute plus qu’un ami et qu'elle avait désigné comme exécuteur testamentaire, de l’avoir fait assassiner, mais il fut lavé de ce chef d’inculpation. Les soupçons se portèrent alors jusqu'au XXIe siècle sur le dauphin, le futur Louis XI, ennemi du parti qu’elle soutenait.

Une autopsie de son cadavre a révélé en 2004 que son tube digestif était infesté d'ascaris, et qu'elle avait absorbé du mercure, comme dernier recours pour s'en débarrasser. C'est l'ingestion de ce métal lourd qui a entraîné une mort très rapide. LINK:


Saturday, 19 August 2006

Plaque Michelin

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

All My Loving

Today is my wedding anniversary,
.... so this post is just for my wife.


There are places I'll remember,
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better,
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments,
With lovers and friends, I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living,
In my life, I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new.
Though I know I'll never lose affection,
For people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more.


John Lennon (In my Life)

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Working Class Hero.

This is one of my own sketches - as you can see, taken from a photograph of John Lennon on the cover of the Abbey Road album.

Downtown Beirut

Psst… heard the one about the talking bus shelters?

Yes I bloody well have!!!!

If you`re standing at a bus shelter in Belfast city centre and it starts talking to you, don`t worry, you`re not hearing things: for talking advertisements have come to Northern Ireland for the first ever time. The innovative Belfast City Council campaign is part of a wider strategy to raise awareness of later opening and a series of evening initiatives in the city centre. Passengers waiting at bus stops in Belfast city centre can listen to 30-second advertisements about the later opening of many shops. Karalyn Smith, media manager of Ardmore Advertising, who developed the campaign, said: “We all recognise how boring it can be waiting for the bus to arrive.

It may be boring but we don't want to be annoyed as well.

The bus shelters represent a huge captive audience. This innovative medium is designed to enhance the campaign, get people talking and generate synergy with other media channels. We think the end result is exciting and definitely will make an impact on the city streets.” Wendi Kane, Evening Economy Officer with Belfast City Council, commented: “So far the talking shelters appear to have captured the attention of everyone who sees and listens to them. We are very pleased with this highly innovative campaign from Ardmore Advertising which combines sight and sound to reach our audiences.” Belfast city centre`s evening economy initiative includes the `Shopping Heaven to Seven` campaign launched in April. Retailer response has so far been positive with higher than average spend reported in the two hours between 5pm and 7pm. Wendi Kane continued: “Clearly its early days but retailer feedback has been very encouraging and we hope this latest stage of the campaign will help towards our target of making Belfast city centre a thriving shopping and leisure destination.”

Positive feedback - I'll give them positive feedback. Is a hammer through the speakers positive enough?

And they wonder why so many bus shelters are getting smashed around Belfast!

Complaints can be made online here:

Duff cheque for heart op

Ananova:

A man who desperately needed a heart operation wrote a cheque so he could go private knowing it would bounce.
Roy Thayers, 77, was warned he might die on the NHS waiting list but could not afford to pay for the £6,500 surgery.
So he wrote out a cheque knowing that by the time it bounced the operation would be over.
Roy from Hounslow, West London is repaying the debt at £25 month.

The coronary angioplasty op at Hammersmith Hospital lasted almost two hours and was a success.
Within a month the hospital sent letters demanding payment, then threatened to send bailiffs round.
(What? ... to repossess his heart???)

Roy said: "I had to start off paying £150 a month. I only get £470 pension, so I got it reduced to £25. I'll be 99 by the time it's paid."

A hospital spokesman said: "We have done all we can to accommodate Mr Thayers' financial situation."
(A hospital with ... ahem ... heart)


Way to go Roy!

Brooke looks like any other baby girl. But in fact, she's 12 years old

Original story: Charles Laurence in New York(Filed: 22/05/2005)

Brooke Greenberg has celebrated 12 birthdays according to the calendar and her family photo albums. In terms of growing up, however, she has yet to reach her first.
To the mystification of the medical world, Brooke is frozen in time, a real-life, female Peter Pan. She weighs 13lb and measures 27 inches, and looks and acts as if she were a six-month-old baby, not a girl about to become a teenager.
Brooke lives with her parents Howard and Melanie Greenberg and her three sisters in Reisterstown, a Baltimore suburb, and doctors credit her survival to their love and support.

Video here: Forever Young Video.

Sounds really weird - but could it possibly be true?

This is an old story but A Welsh View has a post here Link: and Googling produces many web entries but not much more enlightenment. Nobody seems to be able to decide whether or not it is a hoax. MSNBC ran the story twice in 2001 then again in 2005. I can't find the 2001 story which was mentioned by Wikipedia (They don't give a link).