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  1. #121
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    BRIDGING THE GAPS

    There was a remarkable occurrence in the suburbs of Sheffield this morning, when local inventor Kevin Spout treated members of the media and public to the first trial of his latest invention in the engineering field. Spout’s supporters recently dubbed him Yorkshire’s answer to Leonardo da Vinci because he emulates that renowned Tuscan gentleman by embarking on a great number and range of ventures. His detractors retort that he also shares the Renaissance polymath’s tendency to leave jobs unfinished.

    The result of Kevin’s current brainwave was displayed at a boating lake not far from his home. Before giving the demonstration, he explained what led to it. “I’ve always been good at lateral thinking,” he said. “For some years it has seemed to me that bridges are a colossal waste of materials and human resources. Just consider the miles of cable, the roadways and the vast amount of rock used for anchorages. It’s absurd. I was returning from a visit to the castle at Warwick, where I had seen the world’s largest trebuchet in action. As you probably know, these machines were used in medieval times as siege engines, usually to batter the walls of strongholds.

    “When I conflated my two ideas concerning trebuchets and bridging gaps, I realised that the former could be adapted to deal with the latter, thus obviating a great deal of construction work. Clearly people need to go both ways when crossing stretches of water or chasms of whatever kind. Therefore, to avoid queuing, it is advisable to have two sets of apparatus, one for sending an object and one for receiving it, on each side. For today I have produced only one sender and one receiver. I now invite you to look at them.”

    The sender was a huge trebuchet, built by members of the Spout family and modified for today’s purpose by Kevin himself. It stood a few yards from the lake’s edge, on the east side. The receiver was a long ramp, its high end about the same distance from the water on the west side. Kevin’s father, a garage mechanic, had fitted it with a braking system to ensure a safe and smooth descent for the propelled object. The two structures were about a hundred and fifty yards apart.

    For those who know nothing of warfare in times gone by, a trebuchet can perhaps best visualised as a kind of gigantic catapult. A beam is fixed asymmetrically between two uprights, in such a way that its long end is nearly four times the length of the short one. A massive counterweight is attached to the short end, while the long one holds the weapon, or in this case the conveyance.

    In order to enhance the force of projection, Kevin had fixed special tensioning cables to the beam, linking them with a mechanism of his own design. His plan was to release them in such a way that the counterweight would be yanked down and the opposite end of the beam whipped up. No details of the weight at either end of the beam, the degree of cable tautness or the concealed linking device were disclosed, as Kevin fears industrial espionage for copycat schemes.

    With the traditional trebuchet, a missile, usually a very heavy rock, was fixed to the outer end of the beam’s longer section. For today’s experiment, instead of a weapon there was a capsule about six feet long, designed to allow two people to travel in tandem. Kevin has much bigger versions in mind for the future. On this occasion, the passenger seats were occupied by dummies. Several people had volunteered for the trip, but their offers were declined.

    The operation began when Kevin, assisted by his cousin Donald, who had helped him with his recent work on a rocket, freed the cables from their restraining wires. As the counterweight dropped, the capsule soared. Unfortunately, instead of describing the expected graceful arc and touching down on the receiver, it executed unintended moves in all three aerial axes, lateral, longitudinal and vertical, pitching, rolling and yawing wildly. After turning base over apex twice, it plunged into the lake just short of the west shore and forty yards south of the receiver, destroying two rowing boats. While the capsule was making its brief journey, the trebuchet, overtaxed by the strain imposed upon it, collapsed.

    A two-man recovery team, Kevin’s uncles, hauled the capsule from the water, and on inspecting the dummies found that both had been decapitated and had lost their arms and legs. When they were reassembled, it was noted that they bore no marks consistent with serious injury to human passengers. “Maybe they were just scared to bits,” was how one wag put it.

    When asked to explain the mishap, Kevin said: “I must confess that, as in the case of my earlier experiment with a spacecraft, I gave my assistant Donald too much responsibility when I allowed him to position the receiver. He did not mention until a moment ago that he has a problem with macular pucker in his right eye. As anyone with this complaint will know, it causes apparent shifts in the locations of distant objects. This accounts for the receiver being in the wrong place. I was too busy to notice this when arranging the launch.

    “The somewhat uncontrolled nature of the flight was caused by two factors. First, the extra energy induced by release of the restraining cables was not quite at the right level. Second, I decided late in the day that I would not equip the capsule with the pair of stubby wings I had constructed in order to maximise stability. Although I have learned a great deal from the test, I cannot regard it as a complete success. I shall fare much better with the second one.”

    Before today’s incident, no engineering experts had publicly expressed opinions about the project. It emerged afterwards that the event had been attended by Jim Popadomescu of Bucharest, a specialist in trebuchets. He said that he could have predicted the outcome but that nobody had asked him to offer his views and he did not want to make unsolicited observations before the event. However, he made the retrospective suggestion that a more satisfactory result would have been achieved by use of his propulsion system. This is based on the plaiting together of rubber bands, which he buys by the crateful from his local stationer.

    Madazine’s Axel Griess had viewed the proceedings. When he was located taking a stiff brandy in a pub near the lake, he said that he did not wish to add much to the high level of exposure likely to be given to the trial. He did disclose that immediately after the crash, Kevin had found a moment to ask him if he might be interested in booking a passage for the next outing. “I refused,” he said. “While I yield to no-one in my admiration of Kevin’s ingenuity, I prefer terra firma, on the ground that it provides more ‘firmer’ and less terror.”

    A date for the next test has yet to be fixed.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; July 1st, 2015 at 01:43 PM.
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    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

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  2. #122
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    A COUNTRY PRACTICE

    Midhampton, England, 1898

    Jenkins: Ah, there goes the new doorbell. Two rings. That means it is for us. These modern devices are most helpful. I deduce from the pressure applied and the obviously peremptory note that our caller is a large, muscular man, probably of the labouring classes. We mustn’t keep the poor fellow waiting. He is probably already somewhat apprehensive at the prospect of meeting a person of my status. Be so good as to trot along the corridor and show him in, Watson.

    Porter: For Heaven’s sake, pull yourself together. You must rid yourself of this delusion that you are Sherlock Holmes, that I am Dr Watson and that this is Baker Street in the great metropolis. We are in a small country town, your name is Jenkins, you are an architect – of sorts – and for my numerous sins, I am your assistant, Porter. If you persist with this woolgathering, we shall lose yet another opportunity for a commission. You might also dispense with that ridiculous calabash pipe. You insist on displaying and handling the thing, though your respiratory condition precludes your smoking it. Actors would call it a stage property.

    Jenkins: Never mind all that now. Bring the poor man to me and I shall soon get to the bottom of whatever is disturbing him.

    One minute later.

    Porter: Here is your visitor. If you need me, I shall be in my office.

    Jenkins (to visitor): Good morning. You are a woman, I see.

    Visitor: I am indeed.

    Jenkins: And not very large.

    Visitor: No, I am two inches under five feet in height and am frequently described as petite, though I do not normally use that word myself. You seem to be surprised. Were you expecting someone else? Perhaps a big man?

    Jenkins: I never expect anything, madam. That enables me to deal with what arises, without my being misled by preconceptions. Now, do take a seat and try to feel at ease. I am accustomed to assisting and comforting ladies in distress, so please tell me what is worrying you.

    Visitor: I assure you that I am perfectly at ease and not in the least distressed or worried. My name is Mrs Fieldhouse and I have called upon you to ask about the drawing up of plans.

    Jenkins: Ah yes, plans. Well, I have many. The Bruce-Partington ones come to mind at once.

    Fieldhouse: The name is not familiar to me.

    Jenkins: That is understandable. The whole affair was kept quiet. It went to very highest levels of society. My brother Mycroft was involved in it before I was. He asked me to help and I tracked down and apprehended the culprit.

    Fieldhouse: The culprit? Well, be that as it may, my position is that I have bought a plot of land and –

    Jenkins: In the countryside, due north of here, I perceive.

    Fieldhouse: Whatever makes you say that?

    Jenkins: Elementary. I merely observed the heel of your left shoe, which bears traces of the reddish soil found nowhere else in this vicinity. When a man has been in this business as long as I have, not much escapes him, Mrs Fielding.

    Fieldhouse: Fieldhouse!

    Jenkins: I beg your pardon.

    Fieldhouse: I have not left this town in the past ten years. My shoes are new, purchased last week. The plot of land is only five minutes’ walk from here. I acquired it a short time ago, when I became a widow.

    Jenkins: Yes, yes. I see the sorrow in your eyes. I hope you are coping with your grief.

    Fieldhouse: I am not troubled by either sorrow or grief. My husband was a brute and I am relieved that he has passed on. The first happiness I had since our wedding was gained by attending his funeral. You appear to set great store by your power of inference, but it is clearly faulty. First, you seemed to have it fixed in your mind that you were about to receive a male caller, so you were wrong there. Second, you assumed erroneously that I had been out in the countryside. Third, you perceived sorrow where there is none. You were mistaken in all respects.

    Jenkins: Bear with me, Mrs Fieldmouse.

    Fieldhouse: Fieldhouse!

    Jenkins: Yes, of course. I was about to say that I have my methods, which may seem a little out of the ordinary. However, I have usually been successful in solving the cases referred to me.

    Fieldhouse: Solving cases? Your use of language puzzles me.

    Jenkins: I have baffled many people, yet clients almost invariably find my results satisfactory. The gentleman who showed you in has recorded some of my little exploits as short stories. One might say that he regards himself as my biographer.

    Fieldhouse: You appear to lead an adventurous life. That is not quite what I would expect of a man in your occupation.

    Jenkins: I have my moments of drama. However, let us deal with your problem. I need details. They are the very essence of any investigation. Please tell me everything that you consider possibly pertinent, however trivial. Great issues may hang on the most mundane points. I recall an incident, superficially trivial, involving parsley and butter on a hot day –

    Porter (entering and addressing Jenkins): Excuse the interruption. You asked me to remind you about your other appointment.

    Jenkins: Oh, yes. Thank you. Well, Mrs Porterhouse –

    Fieldhouse: Fieldhouse!

    Jenkins: Yes, quite so. I apologise for terminating our discussion, but I must catch a train. I am engaged in a most serious matter involving a church up in Derbyshire. Dark things are occurring there and it is necessary that I proceed to the place at once. If you will permit me to resort to metaphor, I suspect rats in the wainscoting.

    Fieldhouse: Really? If I also may be somewhat figurative, are you sure that you are not contending with bats in the belfry?

    Jenkins: A remote contingency, but I will take it into account. As I have often told my colleague here, when one has eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Now I must go, so I will leave you in my friend’s capable hands. Rest assured that I shall give your case my full attention when I return. (To Porter) Kindly look after the lady, Watson.

    Porter: Very well. I hope you enjoy your journey and solve the mystery. I have everything in hand here, so please do not hurry back.

    Jenkins: Au revoir, Mrs Moorhouse.

    Fieldhouse: Fieldhouse!! Goodbye, Mr Holm . . . er . . . Jenkins.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; December 24th, 2018 at 03:41 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

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  3. #123
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    LIFE IN THE DARK AGES

    It has been said that much of the Anglo-Saxon period in England is not very well documented. Be that as it may, we are now able to gain a little insight into the daily lives of common people, albeit some rather unusual ones. A short while ago, Historian Oswin Twonk was handed a fragment of writing found by a spelunker in a Cheshire cave.

    Having made a particular study of the period after the Romans departed from our land and the Normans arrived, Mr Twonk was able to translate the text into modern English and he has now released his initial result. Nobody knows who wrote the original manuscript or when it first appeared, though it may be reasonable to infer that it was penned in the early 800s, as there is some mention of the Norse invaders, but none of Alfred the Great.

    The document deals mainly with ordinary people and makes only limited reference to prominent ones. It is incomplete and does not have an obvious beginning or end. Still, it gives us some absorbing information about a few interesting characters. Mr Twonk has provided Madazine with an extract which he hopes our readers will find intriguing. It is given below:

    One of the characters to whom we are introduced is Egbreath the Horrible, noted for his huge consumption of raw garlic – and the fact that he apparently had few close friends. He lived in a typical one-roomed cottage of wattle and daub. His wife was also noteworthy. Her name was Illwinda and she was widely known for her malodorous flatulence, and was usually avoided by neighbours. Some people might wonder whether she perhaps inspired the phrase ‘it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good’. The origin of this expression seems to be unclear, though it seems to have been well known early in the sixteenth century, when it was already described as a proverb.

    We are told that while out walking one day, Egbreath met a village elder and the following conversation ensued:

    Elder: Good morning, Egbreath. I understand that you have come into an inheritance.

    Egbreath: I have. My late aunt bequeathed me a billy goat.

    Elder: How nice for you. Where is the creature now?

    Egbreath: He is in my cottage, sprawled out by the fire.

    Elder: But Egbreath, what about the smell?

    Egbreath: Oh, never mind him. He will get used to it.

    Another remarkable character was Thithelthroth the Unvigilant, who claimed to be part Viking. He contrasted sharply with Hereward the Wake, who came along much later. When it became known that marauders were seeking food in the vicinity of Thithelthroth’s village, he distinguished himself in a most egregious manner. Assigned to nocturnal lookout duty for the first and only time, he became bored, consumed a gallon of mead and fell into a drunker stupor.

    While the incompetent watchman snored the night away, the roving miscreants made off with a dozen head of cattle, twenty goats and thirty sheep. To add insult to injury, they also picked an acre of peas, quietly dug up a patch of four hundred square yards of cabbages and onions, and raided the collective dairy, stealing all of the villagers’ butter and cheese. The record does not say what price Thithelthroth paid for his behaviour.

    We are also introduced to Hogsgirth the Vast, a man described as of astounding circumference, as broad as he was long. This fellow had a gargantuan appetite and fed himself to such a bulk that in the final year of his life he was unable to leave his home, as the doorway would not have been wide enough to permit his egress, even if he had been able to attempt it, which he was not. He perished immediately after tackling his last meal, a whole roast ox. (Well, that would probably be the last meal of anyone who tried it.)

    In addition to giving us an overview of the lives of common folk, the work enlightens us briefly about several striking people among the nobility, including Ethelspread, Etheldread, Ethelthread and Ethelbreeda. The first of these was noted for giving lavish banquets, the second distinguished himself by his cruelty, the third got his name because he was reputedly thin enough to be passed through the eye of a needle, and the fourth was a lady of astounding fecundity, who it was said gave birth to children to numerous to count.

    I, your informant, am working on a book based on the four pages of parchment passed to me by the cave explorer. So far I have produced 200,000 words and am close to the end. I hope for a high level of sales.

    Editor’s note. I am puzzled by the fact that Mr Twonk does not comment on the inclusion of ‘a’ in the names of the three male ‘Ethels’ he mentions in his penultimate paragraph. I do not believe that spelling was used in the period concerned, as may be gathered from two undoubtedly real Ethelreds (or Aethelreds). To my mind, the extra letter in the third syllable of the names in the manuscript casts doubt on its authenticity. I suspect this supposed find might be another ‘Piltdown Man’ type hoax.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; December 25th, 2018 at 08:26 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

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  4. #124
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    HOW TO BE SUPERIOR

    Having been asked numerous times to offer tips on how to be superior, I feel that I must finally accede to these requests, so here are some remarks which I hope may be useful to those who need help in the matter of social climbing. Let me say at the outset that I am not seeking to rival the work of the great Stephen Potter, whose School of Lifemanship at Yeovil gave so much to so many. The eminent founder and principal of that wonderful institution had a wider remit than mine, in that he taught his pupils how to be ‘one up’ on other people in a variety of situations.

    I must point out that my observations are aimed at men only. The ladies have their own etiquette in these matters and their procedures are a closed book to me. The advice given below is mainly for those who wish to move in loftier social circles than the ones to which they are accustomed. One could write a book about this, but there is no need for anybody to do so because the whole thing is much simpler than is commonly thought. A fellow can get by very nicely by bearing in mind only a small number of simple rules.

    The would-be upstart must first consider his name. An unusual one is a great advantage, and if you do not have one, you would do well to consider a change. In my case that was not necessary, for it would be hard to improve on Theseus Naseby-Goatwrangler. The male forenames in my family have long been taken from Greek mythology, my two uncles being Ajax and Achilles, while my late father was Agamemnon. Dad was known to his intimates as Aga until alcohol completed his mental decline, when the prefix ‘G’ was added to his sobriquet. If you do decide to take a new name, be imaginative. For Heaven’s sake don’t go from Smith to Smythe. That is simply too transparent.

    To jump ahead for a moment, once you have joined your chosen group, you will find that other aspiring parvenus try to ingratiate themselves with you. They can be importunate, so you will have to demonstrate that you are a cut above them, without overtly insulting them. Your best course is to refer to all of them as John, even if you know their real names. This is a clear indication that you are somehow so distant from them that their true identities are of no interest to you. I have said that these comments are aimed at men. However, in this matter of address, you will need to deal with women at times. Refer to all of them as Jane. This is a nice name, faintly upmarket and perhaps slightly redolent of the ‘county’ types, so you will not cause offence. That is all on the subject of names.

    Apparel is very important, but you will doubtless be pleased to learn that it is far less problematical than you might imagine. You must have a Harris Tweed jacket and it needs to be quite shapeless. I have two, purchased forty-odd years ago. They were totally amorphous when I got them and are exactly the same now. Do not take one that has a discernible form or design. I suggest a light base colour, vaguely beige/fawn/taupe or similar, with an unidentifiable reddish/brown pattern. On no account should you have leather elbow patches or cuff trims. They may be all very well for academics, but not for you. A tweed flat cap is also essential, and for goodness sake, don’t get one with a button on the top. For foul weather get a hip-length waxed mid-green coat.

    You have some latitude in the matter of trousers. Thick, tough ones are best and here again I recommend a light colour. You can’t really improve on cavalry twill. Do not even think of corduroy – quirkiness can be taken too far. Your shirt should also be light – ivory is good – with a criss-cross motif of thin black, brown or dark-grey lines, to make roughly quarter-inch squares.

    You should have a tie with a regimental look. It need not be the real thing, for nobody in your circle will be so uncouth as to ask you about it. Should some boorish intruder do so, your response will be to allude vaguely and dismissively to a military background, conveying the impression that you have moved on and don’t wish to wallow in the past. This presupposes that you are of sufficiently mature years. If you aren’t, just invent an excuse to leave your interlocutor and try to ensure that the two of you don’t meet again. That won’t be difficult, as the lout concerned is not likely to get a further chance to mix with those around you.

    Now to footwear. A pair of stout brogues is essential. They should be light tan and must be treated with saddle soap rather than wax polish. Your aim is a dullish sheen, not a high shine. Opt for something from a top maker. These shoes are uncompromising beasts, usually referred to as bench-made, and for quite a while you will get the impression that the bench is still attached to them, or that you are lifting concrete blocks. Wearing the things is excruciating because they will make no effort to fit you, so you will have to fit them. However, the experience, painful though it may be, is necessary.

    There is nothing more to be said about dress, and I will explain why. You can do well enough in almost any circumstances with the kind of outfit described above. For example, if you are required to appear at a tie and tails affair, by all means turn up in your casual attire. On such occasions you should rush in late and explain that you were detained on the moors, strangling a recalcitrant gillie, or beating beaters who didn’t come up to scratch. Your sartorial incongruity may lead to your being regarded as mildly eccentric, but you will not be ostracised because most of the others present are likely to have had similar experiences and will understand.

    I must touch upon the subjects of alcohol and tobacco. The former is easy. Try to avoid beer. You may give as your excuse the fact that the volumes involved give you digestive problems, even though your innards may be able to cope with barbed wire and bleach. You can do the same with respect to most spirits, but you really should take brandy because at many gatherings, the men will insist on a post-prandial session with that beverage and smokes, and you must join them. By all means indulge in wine, but don’t get too involved in discussions about it, as this area can be a minefield.

    The noxious weed is a delicate matter nowadays. You should eschew cigarettes, which are widely frowned upon. A pipe is permissible, if you can get one that stays alight for more than two minutes at a time. However, the right choice is cigars, and here I can give you some useful guidance. You are sure to find that a number of your companions favour top Havanas, and if you are not yet initiated here, prepare yourself for a shock. Naturally, you wish to be considered ‘one of the chaps’, and you will discover that the best that Cuba has to offer costs about a pound per minute of burning time.

    Now here is a vital pointer. You will notice that some of your chums will leave their cigar bands in or around ashtrays. Find a reason to stay behind after the others have gone, then pick up the discarded bands, take them home and put them on much cheaper cigars. This will help you to create an impression of affluence. A chap in one of my clubs got away with that for a long time, using Cuban bands on cheap smokes, which were all he could afford. But be warned. His behaviour was noticed. He was an insensitive man, his pachydermic hide seemingly impervious to the thickening atmosphere of opprobrium that built up around him. In the end, a quiet word from the club secretary persuaded him to resign.

    A further point you should bear in mind is that intellectual pretensions are not welcome in the social stratum you have selected. Each of those around you will have had an education and some of them may even remember bits of theirs. If you have some special knowledge or talent, don’t labour it, or you will soon be deafened by snores.

    The subject of music is likely to arise in your get-togethers. You may be asked for your views on, say, Shustakovsky’s forty-ninth symphony, often referred to as ‘The Interminable’ because no orchestra can, with any decency, get through it in less than two hours. If you have an opinion, by all means give it, but should you be out of your depth, say that a childhood accident rendered you tone-deaf, so you cannot comment.

    I could go on, but Madazine’s editor, Will Rider-Hawes, who is an old friend of mine, has limited the length of my observations. “Don’t give me a wordfest,” he said. Still, with the above counsel as your lodestone, you will not find it difficult to navigate your way into the company you wish to keep. Good luck.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; December 25th, 2018 at 08:28 PM.
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
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  5. #125
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    Editor’s note. Some Madazine readers will know that we don’t usually deal with highly topical matters. However, exceptions are made on occasion and the item below is one of them. Our mail today included a letter which intrigued all of us here, and I hope it will be of general interest. One reason for publishing it is that the writer is of the same vintage as yours truly, so I’m showing oldster solidarity. Here we go:

    BREXIT BULLETIN

    To the editor of Madazine.

    Dear Sir,

    It occurs to me that your readers may be interested to learn that I have started a new career – in my eightieth year at that. Allow me to explain. There has been much talk of late concerning a possible British exit (Brexit) from the European Union. Having decided to specialise in this subject, I am gathering as much socioeconomic data as possible, in order to become the world’s first, perhaps only, brexitologist. Admittedly this may be a short-lived occupation, possibly as brief as four months, but I have already made a dramatic discovery, as follows:

    According to rules devised by an anonymous group of officials, only six of the EU’s twenty-eight countries will be able to depart in the way Britain is considering. The reason is that any land wishing to pull out needs to coin a snappy word for its intended action. This must be limited to two syllables, which are to include ‘exit’ plus the first two letters, in English, of the country’s name. The ‘exit’ part must be enunciated distinctly, so where the second letter of the name is ‘e’, this cannot be counted as part of ‘exit’, meaning that Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark are disqualified. For example, Belgium would be ‘Be-exit’ which is three syllables.

    Under the regulations described above, the only members allowed to leave the Union will be Britain (Brexit), Croatia (Crexit), France (Frexit), Greece (Grexit) Spain (Spexit) and Sweden (Swexit). There can be no question of a Slexit, as this could apply to either Slovakia or Slovenia, so both are barred on the ground that there is already more than enough confusion in Brussels.

    The Czech Republic is a special case. It cannot qualify by starting its name with ‘The’, as no country is permitted to use the definite article in its name for the purpose of this exercise. However, the Czechs might be accepted as potential departees by opting for the ‘Cz’ start. This could be controversial because it may cause argument about pronunciation. On seeing it at the beginning of ‘Czexit’, most Anglophones would regard it as ‘Cexit’, with an initial ‘s’ sound, thus failing to identify clearly the country concerned. A case – albeit a weak one – has been made for ‘Chexit’, with an initial ‘Ch’, as in chug, in conformity with English articulation. This has so far proved troublesome because (a) it does not use the correct two opening letters, as widely recognised and (b) even the ‘Ch’ might be interpreted by some people as having a ‘k’ sound, as in Charisma.

    The Czech problem is being discussed by the European Commission but a directive on it will not be produced for at least two years. It must take its place behind the knotty questions of cuboid tomatoes (for optimum packing), harmonisation of the shapes and sizes of carrots and – most contentious of all – the proposed straightening, on health and safety grounds, of all boomerangs sold in the EU. With respect to the last point, advice is to be sought from a specialist. Rumour has it that the job might go to a certain dinkum Aussie who is an expert on the ancient weapon. He now heads a large organisation in the world of writing forums and is known to his twenty or thirty thousand closest friends as The Admiral. This grizzled tar is reputedly the world’s most decorated naval man, so bemedalled that when in full dress uniform he lists to port. According to a usually reliable source, he has indicated that he will be available as soon as he has replaced the crumbling corks on his bush hat.

    Undoubtedly my researches will unearth other important points, but I submit that the above will do for a start. Incidentally, it has not escaped my notice that in international parlance, our country is more correctly defined as the UK, which includes Northern Ireland. For the purpose of the study described above, that point will be ignored.

    I shall keep you informed of further developments.

    Yours sincerely,

    A. Spleen-Venter
    Founder and Principal, Institute of Brexitology

    * * *
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
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    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

  6. #126
    Hey, CJ! Good to see you! I still enjoy your writing.

  7. #127
    Honoured/Sadly Missed Courtjester's Avatar
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    Nice to hear from you again and glad to know that you're still getting nourishment from the deathless prose. Good luck with your own work. Cj
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

  8. #128
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    RULING THE WAVES

    The East Yorkshire seaside resort of Bridlington was today the scene of the latest experiment conducted by the redoubtable Sheffield engineer and inventor, Kevin Spout. This time he has turned his attention to seafaring matters, hence the coastal venue. Once again, a number of representatives of the media had been invited, among them Madazine’s science reporter, Axel Griess. Many local people also attended, hopeful of seeing something spectacular.

    Before carrying out the trial, Kevin explained the train of thought that led to it. He said that he had been wondering for some time why it takes so long for ships to get from one place to another. In particular, he had been thinking of the time, some years ago, when he crossed the North Sea from Hull to Rotterdam. “It took ages,” he groaned. “I embarked at about six o’clock one evening and reached my destination at eight the following morning. I found that ridiculous then and I still do, but I’ve only recently been able to deal with the matter.”

    Spectators were then asked to examine the result of Kevin’s work. This took the form of an open sailing boat, fifteen feet long. The mast and rigging had been removed and Kevin had fitted to the flat stern two rocket engines, designed and manufactured by himself. They were mounted in parallel, port and starboard, above the rudder. He has plans for much larger vessels, including freighters of several thousand tons, and he claims that there is no obvious limit in terms of size.

    When he first announced what he proposed to do, Kevin attracted some scepticism from several marine engineers, perhaps foremost among them being leading German expert Hans Poopdecker. “I cringe in anticipation,” he said. “Mr Spout declares that he wishes to demonstrate that Britain still rules the waves. He is more likely to show that it waives the rules. How is one of his contraptions going to cope with forty-foot Atlantic rollers?” Kevin dismissed this pessimism, saying that he has studied oceanic conditions and that the ships he intends to produce will cut through the billows like knives through butter.

    After the public inspection, Kevin continued his address, saying that one of the biggest problems confronting rocket engineers is throttling. Traditionally, their machines were either on at full power or off completely. He added that some progress had been made by large companies in recent years, but that he was far ahead of the field, in that he had perfected a system by which his engines can be controlled to any desired level of output, from very low up to maximum.

    With regard to fuel, Kevin said he had opted to use a liquid oxygen/methane combination favoured by some experts for a Mars mission, but had added ‘a touch of Spout magic’ which ensured that his engines greatly outstripped the performance achieved by anyone else. He claimed that he had demonstrated this to his own satisfaction with extensive bench testing. When asked to disclose details concerning the nozzle exhaust velocity his method had attained, he declined, saying that such information is vital and might be helpful to anyone wishing to emulate his results.

    For the maiden voyage of his craft, Kevin had decided to travel alone. The boat was towed to a spot just outside the harbour mouth. Having satisfied himself that his course was set for the European mainland, Kevin opened the propellant and oxidant feed lines and, with a cry of “Holland, here I come,” he pressed the starter buttons for the two engines.

    What happened next will long be remembered by those who witnessed it. The boat zoomed off – in circles. Close observers noticed that the starboard engine had blazed into life, but that the port one had not. After the craft had, so to speak, chased its own tail for about a dozen rotations, Kevin got the recalcitrant unit going, albeit at far less than full thrust. This resulted in the boat moving in a tight arc. It hurtled towards Sewerby Head, a mile or so from the harbour, with Kevin trying to get control. He failed, and with the vessel heading for disaster, he leapt into the sea. The boat sped on, hitting the foot of a cliff and disintegrating into what one onlooker described as pieces the size of confetti.

    As soon he had been hauled ashore and changed his clothes, Kevin conducted an inquiry. Within minutes, he was able give a summary of what had occurred. “There were two problems,” he said. “First, I gave my cousin Donald the task of ensuring that the feed lines to the engines were clear. I had devised a special tool for this operation, but Donald mislaid it after using it on the starboard side. He concluded that he would have to improvise and as he is a smoker, he tied together a number of the cleaners with which he rods out his pipes. After using them, he forgot to pull them out of the port fuel tube. When the propellant began to flow, it caused the cleaners, which are of cotton-covered wire, to wad up and block the flow. Eventually there was a partial clearance, which explains why the port engine operated at reduced power.

    “The second point was that pressure and downdraught from the starboard engine forced the rudder leftwards, so the boat’s motion was circular until the port engine began to fire. When that happened, there was still a strong bias from the starboard side, so the course changed to a curve, as you saw. I was unable to correct the snag in the short time available. Overall, having established what went wrong, I regard the test as a qualified success.”

    Madazine’s Axel Griess gave his brief and scathing opinion of the proceedings, saying: “I was not surprised to see Kevin going round in circles, nor was I taken aback by his being completely at sea.”

    A date for the next trial has not yet been fixed.

    * * *
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

  9. #129

    Thank you Courtjester,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this, and snorted loudly whilst reading the part quoted - to the bewilderment of the other occupants of the room!

    [QUOTE]Under the regulations described above, the only members allowed to leave the Union will be Britain (Brexit), Croatia (Crexit), France (Frexit), Greece (Grexit) Spain (Spexit) and Sweden (Swexit). There can be no question of a Slexit, as this could apply to either Slovakia or Slovenia, so both are barred on the ground that there is already more than enough confusion in Brussels.

    I look forward to reading more of your work!


  10. #130
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    Dear Shirl The Whirl,

    Thank you for your comments. I'm delighted to learn that you liked the Brexit piece and hope you will get some pleasure from the earlier Madazine articles. As it happens, I posted another item yesterday. This was the latest exploit of the redoubtable Yorkshire inventor, Kevin Spout. If you are into humour, you might want to try my 'Pondhopper' and 'Solomon Had It Easier' stories, which are now most readily accessible in the Multi-Chapter and Collected works sub-forum. Happy reading and good luck to you with your own work. Cj
    [CENTER][B][I][SIZE=3][FONT=times new roman]Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

    [/FONT][/SIZE][/I][/B][B][I][FONT=Times New Roman]O:)[/FONT][/I][/B]
    [SIZE=2]
    [/SIZE]
    [/CENTER]

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