Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dad's Bet on Jimmy Mulville

Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles (London: Penguin Books, 2010), p. 403.

The Zanzibar swarmed with media people. Jimmy Mulville was often there. This sharp, witty, fast-brained Liverpudlian had been something of a legend in Cambridge, having left the year I arrived. He had gone up to read Latin and ancient Greek, and a less likely Cambridge classicist you could never hope to meet. The rumour was that his father, a docker from Walton, had come home one night when Jimmy was seventeen and said, 'You'd better do well in your A levels and that, son, because I've just been to the bookies and put down a bet on you getting all A grades and a scholarship to Cambridge. Got a good price too.'

'Christ, Dad!' Jimmy is reported to have said in shock. 'How much did you bet?'

'Everything,' came the reply. 'So get studying.'

They say that today's schoolchildren now suffer more exam pressure than my generation ever did, and generally I have no doubt that this is true, but I don't suppose many have had to endure pressure of the kind Jimmy did that year. He duly obliged with the straight As and the scholarship.

It is too good a story for me to check up and risk the disappointment of it being proved a distortion or exaggeration.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cockroaches in Vacuum Gassed

New Scientist, 25 October 1962, vol. 16, no. 310, p. 222.


The great vacuum cleaner mystery

Sir, -- Mr Green's interesting article, The trouble with cockroaches (11 October), prompts the following story of an experience of a friend of mine some years ago. Returning late from the club one Saturday night he found everybody in bed, but his kitchen floor alive with cockroaches. Being of a tidy mind he sucked up as many as he could in a vacuum cleaner. Then the thought that they were not dead but merely snug in the cleaner prompted him to connect it by rubber tubing to a gas tap, and to fill the cleaner with gas. He retired happily to bed and slept late. Next morning his wife found the cleaner and thought she would clean up a little: she switched it on and it promptly blew up! The representative of the manufacturers was called in, and he confessed that he had "never seen one go like that before." My friend kept his silence and eventually got his replacement vacuum cleaner. I dare say any surviving cockroaches were highly amused.

R. J. Morley
73 Egmont Road
Sutton, Surrey

[This letter is also reproduced in Denys Parsons, Funny Ha Ha and Funny Peculiar (London: Pan Books, 1965), p. 9.]

River Nile Poisoned by North Sudan,39316

Sudan Tribune
24 June 2011

Juba’s population panics over rumours of water poisoning

June 23, 2011 (JUBA) – The urban population in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, panicked on Thursday after rumours that the river, which supplies the population in the city with water, had been poisoned by the North Sudan government just days ahead of the region’s independence. [...]

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Number 39 Shunned in Afghanistan

National Public Radio
21 May 2011

Forget Unlucky 13. In Afghanistan, Beware 39

by Ahmad Shafi and Najib Sharifi

[...] Many cultures consider certain numbers to signify luck or disaster. In Afghanistan, 39 is taboo.

It's hard to find a credible story to explain what exactly it means, but everyone knows it's bad. Many Afghans say that the number 39 translates into morda-gow, which literally means "dead cow" but is also a well-known slang term for a procurer of prostitutes -- a pimp.

In Afghanistan, being called a pimp is offensive, and calling someone a pimp could carry deadly consequences. Similarly, being associated with the number 39 -- whether it's on a vehicle license plate, an apartment number or a post office box -- is considered a great shame. And some people will go to great lengths to avoid it. [...]
The Wall Street Journal
15 June 2011
A Symbol of Paid Companionship, No. 39 Is Afghans' Loneliest Number
Associated With Prostitution, the Digits Bring Ridicule to an Unlucky Few
15 June 2011
Cursed number "39" haunts Afghan car owners
By Hamid Shaliz
The Guardian [UK]
15 June 2011
The curse of number 39 and the steps Afghans take to avoid it
Car owners with 39 licence plates lament the stigma of a number associated with pimps and prostitution
Jon Boone in Kabul
The Independent [South Africa]
31 July 2011
Curse of No 39 haunts car dealers
By Mustafa Kazemi

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dog's Microchip Wedged in Restaurant Customer's Teeth

Pontefract & Castleford Express [UK]
6 June 2011

On the brink of ruin

A CHINESE restaurant boss says his business is on the brink of bankruptcy after a vicious rumour claiming a dog’s microchip had been found wedged in a customer’s teeth swept the Five Towns.

Wai Wing Lee, manager of Eastern Court Cantonese Restaurant in Glass Houghton, claims hundreds of diners have been driven away by false reports that a dentist recovered a chip from between a diner’s teeth when he complained of toothache after eating at the Oriental buffet. [...]
Yorkshire Evening Post [UK]
6 June 2011
Yorkshire restaurant owners’ fears over dog chip rumours

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Arizona Fires Set by Illegal Aliens

New York Times
2 June 2011

As Arizona Fire Rages, So Does Rumor on Its Origin


PORTAL, Ariz. - It is a dramatic tale: that illegal immigrants being pursued by the Border Patrol started one of the nation's largest wildfires, which has burned up more than 70,000 acres of national forest along Arizona's border with Mexico since it began almost four weeks ago. But the authorities say that despite the tale's being repeated often by some residents of the rugged countryside here, they do not know for sure if it is true. [...]