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  1. #141
    ADVANCED ECONOMICS

    Announcer: Good evening and welcome to Money Matters. This week we are fortunate to have with us Antony Trite. If his party wins the next election, he will be in charge of the countryís finances. Our interviewer is, as usual, Linda Bobbins. Over to you, Linda.

    Bobbins: Thank you. Hello, Mr Trite. Itís good of you find the time to be with us.

    Trite: My pleasure, Linda. I was delighted when I got the invitation to join you.

    Bobbins: Iíd like to start by asking you to comment on your reputation for answering any question with a question.

    Trite: Wherever did you hear that?

    Bobbins: My case rests. Now, letís get right down to it. You hope to be holding our collective purse strings in the near future, and youíve been very critical of the present government, in particular what you see as its failure to get a grip on the annual budget deficits and the associated national debt. Many of us are very concerned about these matters, so how would you go about putting our affairs in order?

    Trite: Ah, Iím glad you asked me that, Linda.

    Bobbins: Good. Would you care to respond to it?

    Trite: I will, but first let me say Ė

    Bobbins: No, Mr Trite. Please answer the question.

    Trite: Very well. Iíll come straight to the point. The government has totally failed to do what it said it would do Ė clear our debts.

    Bobbins: Be that as it may, Iíd like us to concentrate not on what you believe those now in office have got wrong, but what you would get right.

    Trite: Iíll tell you. If elected, we shall tackle the fiscal problems with all our energy.

    Bobbins: But you havenít yet spelled out what measures you would take. This is your chance to do so.

    Trite: We have fully costed schemes which will get the budget into balance during the course of our first term in office.

    Bobbins: Will you give us the details.

    Trite: Certainly. First, we shall not pander to those urging us to soak the wealthy. You donít make the poor richer by making the rich poorer. The well-off people are contributing massively to our coffers, so we shall see that they are protected.

    Bobbins: What about the poor?

    Trite: We have always been a compassionate society and that will continue. The less affluent people must be looked after, so we would not take anything from them.

    Bobbins: I see. That leaves those in the middle.

    Trite: Precisely, and they are the backbone. Of our great nation. They work hard and pay their taxes, so we wouldnít do anything inimical to their interests.

    Bobbins: Remarkable. You seem to have ring-fenced everyone, so who will pay to get us out of the hole weíre in?

    Trite: As I said, we have worked it all out and our figures have been verified independently. There are savings to be made. For example, we can gather much more money than we do now by adjusting the levels of property tax. That will bring in four hundred million. Then we can withdraw benefits from those who donít need them. There we have another eight hundred and fifty million. You see?

    Bobbins: I do see, but what youíve mentioned amounts to a tiny fraction of one yearís budget deficit. What about the rest?

    Trite: Well, we shall need to look at the books when we take over.

    Bobbins: The books, at least in broad outline, are available to all of us at any time. I was looking at them only today.

    Trite: Yes, but the devil is in the detail.

    Bobbins: Some detail!

    Trite: Thatís true. Let me say that we wouldnít burden the groups Iíve mentioned with heavier taxation. They already pay enough. Therefore we do not envisage any increases in income tax, national insurance, value added tax, corporation tax or excise duties.

    Bobbins: But Iíve just said that you have indicated your intention to protect everyone, yet somebody must pay something to clear our enormous debts. The areas of taxation youíve just said you wonít increase cover about eighty per cent of government revenue. If you arenít going to raise the necessary money by taxation, presumably you have plans to curb public spending.

    Trite: Ah, I thought youíd say that. Now let me make this perfectly clear.

    Bobbins: I do hope you will.

    Trite: We shall not be tampering with spending on health, education or social security, including pensions, nor do we intend to reduce the defence outlay, and of course we cannot avoid paying interest on our debts.

    Bobbins: There you go again. Those items account for over eighty per cent of public spending, which leaves you hardly any room for cuts. That simply doesnít stack up, Mr Trite. Having as I said ring-fenced practically everyone with respect to income, youíve now pretty well done the same in terms of expenditure. You canít go back on all your recent comments by engaging in a borrowing spree, can you?

    Trite: Certainly not. Youíre overlooking one thing, Linda. Under our stewardship, the economy will forge ahead, unemployment will plummet, consumer spending will soar and the revenues will come rolling in, so there will more for everybody. Now do you see?

    Bobbins: What I see most clearly, Mr Trite, is what most other people see, which is that you have just given us a number of hackneyed political platitudes, a lot of pie in the sky and none of your partyís much-vaunted solutions to our problems. Iím bound to wonder why you are here.

    Trite: Steady on, Linda. Thatís a bit strong.

    Bobbins: I had a mental list of things I imagined you might say, and youíve said them all, yet I suggest that nobody is any the wiser for hearing them. The public is seeking clarity and you are providing opacity. This is extremely exasperating.

    Trite: Thatís just not fair, Linda. You have to leave me a little wiggle room. You donít underst . . . hey, what are you doing? Where did you get that frying pan? That thingís cast iron. It could do a lot of dama . . . ooh! ouch! Stop it. Somebody get her away from me.
    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





  2. #142
    The item below is another of those messages received occasionally at Madazine from one of the locations we have come to think of as Behind the Beyond.
    STRAIGHTEN UP, EARTHLINGS

    To the editor of Madazine

    Dear Sir,

    This comes to you from the Andromeda Galaxy Ė you donít need to know exactly where, as no reply is required. I have noticed that your planet has an axial tilt, probably caused by a collision with another celestial body at some point. This is not uncommon but it does cause you to have variations in daylight and weather and I think you would be well advised to correct this, thereby eliminating your seasons. We had the same situation some time ago and we put it right by simple engineering. I hope you will accept my advice on how to do this.

    The area you call Antarctica will do nicely for the job. You need to locate a rocky spot there to which you can anchor an array of powerful propulsive machines, placed so that when they are switched on, the force they exert would drive them towards the South Pole if they were free to move. No doubt you will grasp that the idea is to exert sufficient thrust to push the axis to an upright position. You should start the units in sequence with a day between ignitions. If you were to get them going simultaneously, the shock to the Earth would be too great.

    Assuming that you calculate correctly, the power your devices generate will push against the Antarctic land mass and will shove your South Pole towards the perpendicular, with of course a corresponding movement of the North Pole. When the axis is vertical, turn off the machines. You will be delighted with the outcome of this operation.

    I realise that with your current technology and intellectual resources, you may think this a formidable challenge. However, having observed you for quite a while, I have noted that you have two people who might be up to the task. I refer to that eminent scientist, Professor Jopp, who I understand is widely known as The Sage of Trondheim. If he is still in action, perhaps he could be persuaded to handle the project. Failing that, I suggest, you approach the English engineer and inventor Kevin Spout of Sheffield, who I believe has been dubbed Yorkshireís own Leonardo da Vinci.

    Incidentally, I understand that there is some apprehension in the Milky Way concerning the fact that our two galaxies are on a collision course. That is true but please donít do anything about it. We have the matter in hand and shall take the necessary evasive action. At the very last millennium (your time) we shall trigger the appropriate mechanism. It will then be merely a case of Ďright hand down a bití, allowing us to pass each other like ships in the night.

    I hope you will do as I suggest with respect to your axis and I shall keep an eye on you and see how things develop.

    Yours sincerely,
    A Distant Wellwisher


    Editorís note. We contacted Professor Jopp (donít forget itís pronounced Yopp), who said: ďIf this idea were practicable, I would have done the job long ago. I donít doubt that the operation was successful on Wellwisherís planet, probably because that body is of uniform consistency, not having a crust, a mantle and a core. The same thing could not be done here because machines of sufficient power would, when switched on, crumple our tectonic plates and displace the Earthís crust without moving the axis. This would cause colossal earthquakes. There would be other results but I need not go into them.Ē

    Our science correspondent, Axel Griess, is not available to comment on this at present, as he in rehab, following a series of episodes best not publicised. Kevin Spout is said to be quite keen to have a go at implementing the scheme, but there is sure to be some apprehension about this, as all of his projects to date have ended in failure, often with associated danger and sometimes with actual injury to a number of the people most closely involved.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





  3. #143
    I have been told by the staff in our general office that itís high time for me to make another contribution to Madazineís pages. This request Ė well, it was really a demand Ė took me by surprise, but as it happens I did jot down what I considered an interesting note last week. It was written as a memory aid for me but my colleagues insist that it should be published, so here it is. Editor
    COINAGE

    A German friend visited me recently and among other things we talked about currencies. He touched upon our pre-decimal coins, saying that they were cumbersome and numerous. I sprang to our defence, pointing out that we managed quite well with six of them, whereas there were eight in the Deutsche Mark system. He seemed surprised by this, so I enumerated them. Our old half-penny had been demonetised well before decimalisation, so immediately prior to the change we had the one, three and sixpenny pieces, the shilling (twelve pence), the florin (two shillings) and the half-crown (thirty pence). There was also a crown, but it was a rarity, not in general circulation. At that time the Germans had in common use pieces of one, two, five, ten and fifty pfennigs and one, two and five marks.

    We wandered off to other topics, but after my friend left I gave more thought to the subject of our coins in general. I was aware that we once had a plethora of them simultaneously and felt that the peak must have been reached in the second half of the nineteenth century. On looking into the matter I found that at about the time I had in mind there was an abundance of sterling coins circulating contemporaneously. I came up with what I think is a full list, comprising quarter-farthing, one-third-farthing, half-farthing, half-penny, penny, three half-pence, three pence, four pence (the groat), six pence, shilling, two shillings (florin), half-crown, double-florin, crown, half-sovereign and sovereign. That is a total of sixteen, though the first two and the sixth were minted only for certain colonies. Still, that left thirteen in the UK at the same time.

    Because I like tangible currency, I am no fan of a cashless society and was pleased to see the new dodecagonal pound coin. This inspires me to speculate on what further developments may occur in the same field. If it is not too late, I would like to make a few recommendations, my first being that we should have a replacement for the two-pounder. I think should be a hendecagon, though I have no particular reason for favouring eleven sides. Of course, it would need to be distinctly larger than the one-pounder. Next, I advocate a still bigger piece as a fiver. My choice here would be a decagon, each side representing fifty pence of value.

    Bearing in mind that our currency has recently fallen internationally, I suggest we anticipate the future by minting still higher denominations and that in doing so we show an innovative spirit. I propose that within three or four years we produce a triangular tenner. Naturally it should be equilateral. I would like it to have sides of well over two inches, to be tapered so that the thick edge could stand upright on a flat surface, and designed to ensure that when so placed, our monarchís head would be the right way up.

    If my initial plans are accepted, I would like to go further, the next step being the introduction of a twenty-pound coin. This would be an icosagon Ė one side per pound Ė and a good deal bigger than the tenner, say about three inches across. I can imagine tossing such a thing onto a pub bar and informing mine host of my intention to either drink my way through it or render myself horizontal in the attempt, though I appreciate that inflation may obviate any chance of the second outcome.

    My final submission may be somewhat more controversial. I believe we shall eventually need a fifty-pounder in daily use, and here I would say that a really ground-breaking approach is indicated. My idea is that we might return to a smooth edge and, reflecting the high worth involved, make it about thirty inches in diameter Ė yes, you read that right. The main advantage of this is that an object of this size and shape could be bowled along to a store, deposited in a secure rack and retrieved at checkout time. Some people may argue that the presence of such an artefact could tend to increase street crime, but since that activity seems to be declining, I regard any potential risk as worth taking.

    Anyone who regards the above observations as eccentric might care to consider that the UK currency already has seven-sided coins of two different values. When the first of these equilateral-curve heptagons was introduced, it attracted some ridicule, but the basic design has since been copied by a number of other countries. With this in mind, I claim that those who regard the British attitude to novel coinage as eccentric might be well advised to wait and see how things work out.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





  4. #144
    haha, Coutjester, I love the image of a cartwheel fifty pound coin. The super rich would, of course, have these fitted to their upmarket cars to flaunt their wealth. In a way it's heartening to see that the good old British eccentricity is still alive and kicking in the shape of all these misshapen coins of the realm. Thanks for an enjoyable read.

    jen

    Just starting out on the adventure of poetry? Why not join us on
    Poetry Hill where you will receive one-to-one advice and suggestions for ways to work with your poem.





    My Poems




  5. #145
    So glad you liked it. I hope to come up with a few more.

    Best wishes, Cj.
    Last edited by Courtjester; September 12th, 2017 at 04:27 PM.
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





  6. #146
    EDUCATING JANE

    John: Hello, Jane. Come in and make yourself comfortable.

    Jane: Thank you. Thatís a nice piece of music youíre listening to.

    John: Itís one of Marloweís best.

    Jane: Donít you mean Mahler?

    John: No.

    Jane: I could have sworn it was by the Austrian, Gustav Mahler.

    John: Wrong. Itís by the American, Philip Marlowe.

    Jane: Really? The only American I ever heard of by that name was fictional. You know, Raymond Chandlerís famous detective.

    John: I assure you that piece is Marloweís fifth symphony.

    Jane: Well, I stand corrected. I believe that bitís the adagietto.

    John: Wrong again. Itís the slow movement.

    Jane: But I thought . . . well, never mind.

    John: By the way, Philip Marlowe was a direct descendant of Christopher Marlowe.

    Jane: Oh, yes. The Restoration playwright. I seem to recall that he wrote ĎThe Rivalsí, among other things.

    John: Well, actually, some of those other things you dismiss so glibly emerged as far better known than the one you mention.

    Jane: What other things do you have in mind?

    John: Oh, trifles like ĎRomeo and Julietí, ĎHamletí and ĎKing Learí, to mention a fraction of his output.

    Jane: Fancy that. I thought Shakespeare was responsible for them.

    John: Dear me, Jane. I can see that you need to brush up on your literature as well as your music. I shall have to take you in hand.

    Jane: Possibly. Anyway, I called to let you know Iím off on holiday tomorrow.

    John: Where to?

    Jane: Benidorm. I should be all right there because I speak a little Spanish.

    John: Spanish? Whatever makes you think youíll need that in Benidorm?

    Jane: Well, itís in Spain, right?

    John: No. Itís in Italy. I imagine youíre thinking of Benelux. Thatís in Spain.

    Jane: But I thought that word meant Belg Ė

    John: Thinking can be dangerous, Jane. I assure you that when you touch down in Benidorm, Spanish will be no use to you. Better brush up your Italian, pretty quickly.

    Jane: Oh well, at least Iíll be okay for currency. Iíve got my euros.

    John: Have you indeed? What kind of euros, may I ask?

    Jane: Iíve always thought they were all the same and interchangeable.

    John: Not at all. Theyíre issued by the different countries using the currency. Itís easy to identify the source of euro coins and notes and you can spend them only in the country of issue. You need to check that you have Italian ones, or youíll be in trouble.

    Jane: Oh, dear. I suppose I should have called on you earlier.

    John: Yes, you should. Still, better late than never. You may still be able to rescue yourself. And in future it might be a good idea for you to get my advice before you embark on any important venture. By the way, did you finish that history course you were taking?

    Jane: Yes, and I feel better informed now than I was before I took it.

    John: Well, you may be all right with that correspondence college, but you really should have gone to a proper institution, or better still, you could have come to me for individual coaching. Iím always willing to make time for you. The course was limited to the old Roman ascendancy, wasnít it?

    Jane: Yes, and I enjoyed it, though the part about Caligula was pretty distressing. Clearly he was a very unpleasant fellow.

    John: Fellow? I fear youíre right off the mark again, Jane. Caligula was a woman. The clue is in her name. All the Roman ones ending with an Ďaí were females.

    Jane: But I could have sworn my instructor said several times that Caligula was a man.

    John: Well, most night school teachers leave much to be desired. The poor ignoramus probably got that information from a colleague. Itís the blind leading the blind, Jane. There should be more stringent checks on these people before theyíre let loose to offer what passes for education nowadays. If they get their hands on you again, youíll wind up as weak on history as you are on music, geography and currencies. Look, Iíve had an idea. While youíre away, Iíll work out a course for you. Weíll get together a couple of evenings a week and Iíll soon have you up to scratch on all the subjects that matter.

    Jane: Thank you, John. Itís an exciting prospect, but I hope you donít mind if we delay it a bit. Iím going to be pressed for time until I catch up with a few things. Anyway, I need to be off now, so Iíll be in touch.

    John: Okay. Have a good holiday, and with regard to time pressure, Iíll include in the course a few tips on managing it. See yourself out Ė Iím swamped with things do and havenít a clue how to make a start. Au revoir, Jane.

    Jane: Goodbye, John.
    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





  7. #147
    The item below is a letter received recently at our office.

    A COSMOLOGICAL COUP

    To the editor of Madazine

    Dear Sir,

    I write in the hope that you will publish my letter, as I am sure your readers will be interested in what I have to say. This concerns my observation of a remarkable event which will shake the world in general and the cosmological field in particular. In addition to contacting you, I have sent a note to the Royal Society, where what I have imparted will surely cause quite a stir.

    For some time I have been immersed in astrology and a while ago I added astronomy to my interests, the idea being to fuse the two fields, in order to get a clearer view of matters in the Universe. I bought a ten-inch telescope and have been using it every night for several months at my home in Cornwall.

    It may well be beginnerís luck, but I ask you to imagine my astonishment when I started by focusing my attention on the spiral galaxy Europia, where within half an hour I made a momentous discovery. Moving rapidly outward from near the end of one of the galactic arms was the star Brexitor. When I first saw the body, it was of moderate brightness. However, the astonishing thing was that after a very short period of watching, I saw Brexitor speed completely out of its galaxy and head towards the nearby and much bigger one, Globus. As it did so, it increased markedly in luminosity, almost as though it was uncomfortable in Europia and had been straining to find a home in a larger area.

    I have long been aware that celestial bodies influence one another, even at great distances. Armed with this knowledge, I have been trying to think of an earthbound analogy to what I have observed, but have so far been unsuccessful. My wife Cassiopeia also applied herself to this but has fared no better than myself. It occurs to me that you have occasionally published articles about the Universe, so perhaps some of your readers will find my comments interesting. In that hope, I will close.

    Yours sincerely,
    Leo Cepheus

    Editorís note. We passed this letter to our science correspondent Axel Griess, recently released after detox and as near compos mentis as we ever expect him to be. He says: ďOh, come on. Look at how this fellow identifies himself and his wife. All three names he uses for the two of them are also those of constellations. I have some knowledge of the heavens but have never heard of galaxies named Europia or Globus, or a star called Brexitor. As for a terrestrial correlation, Mr Cepheus and his spouse must be about the only two people in the UK who cannot think of one. All one has to do is consider current social-economic developments and put together the words Brexitor (surely self-explanatory), Europia (Europe) and Globus (Global). If this man is not trying to fool us, he will do until a real hoaxer comes along.Ē

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; October 19th, 2017 at 03:53 PM.
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





  8. #148
    THE MODERN WAY OF DEBATING

    The item below is a transcript of a conversation between George, the chairman of a political constituency party, and Adrian, his deputy. The discussion concerns which aspirant they should choose to stand for Parliament when the incumbent member retires at the forthcoming general election.

    George: I think what we have to keep in mind here is that this country has an adversarial culture. It thrives on ideological disputes. You can see that in the way that we are usually divided roughly down the middle with so many issues. My wifeís into astrology and she reckons that itís all attributable to the UK being under the influence of Gemini, the twins, which she says explains our split personalities, individual and national. Funny thing is that with regard to politics, we seem to insist on having pronounced left and right, though there is plenty of evidence suggesting that we dislike extremes. Thatís a paradox.

    Adrian: It certainly is, George. However, we donít have much time to reach a conclusion. Anyway, we both know the state of play. There are threee candidates we and we must pick one of them.

    George: Do you have a preference?

    Adrian: Iím not sure what to say, George. Letís take the men first. Iím thinking of the latest uproar in the house, when that pair from the same party got stuck into one another. Some say it was just a scuffle and others reckon it was good enough to grace a boxing ring. It seems to me we should learn from that. I mean, if this is the way weíre going to settle things in future, Iíd say we need a lad who can handle himself in a battle. No softies need apply, right?

    George: I agree. Now, we have these two chaps, John Black and Bill White, but this is far from a black and white issue. Blackís a hefty one. He outweighs White by some margin and heís a fair bit taller Ė and then thereís that dark, craggy face. I donít mind admitting that it scares me. Also, they say he has some experience of fisticuffs, so I imagine heíd come out better in a scrap.

    Adrian: Iím not so sure. Thereís no doubt he has it for avoirdupois but I saw him in action once. His problem is ring craft. Heís a southpaw, so he should lead with the right and save his left to hand out the Sunday punch. He does the opposite, so when it comes to the knockout blow, his left might be too weary to deliver it. Not very intelligent, Iíd say.

    George: All right. Whatís your assessment of White?

    Adrian: I donít know how good he is at handing out punishment, but he can certainly take it. He called on me at home a while ago and left in a hurry to see someone else. He swung round and banged his head against the edge of my kitchen door with an impact I can still hear. Burst his nose and went into the bathroom bleeding like a stuck pig. Came out a couple of minutes later with tissue wadded in his nostrils and an ugly red stripe down his forehead from hairline to eyebrows. When I got solicitous, he told me to stop fussing. Head like a rock, that man. Heís pretty agile too, so I wouldnít rule him out.

    George: Okay, so much for the men. What about the woman, Ms Brown?

    Adrian: Sheís an economist.

    George: Well, we all have our faults. What I mean is how would she shape up in a mano a mano?

    Adrian: Well, sheís much lighter than either of the men, but very nimble. Sort of floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, if you see what I mean.

    George: Thank you, Muhammad Ali. Can she take a punch?

    Adrian: She might not need to. Iíve never seen her in a brawl, but I have watched her on a dance floor and believe me she can gyrate. Whirls like a Dervish. If she were to try conclusions with our two blokes, I doubt that either of them would lay a finger on her. And she can wield a rolled up brolly to good effect.

    George: I see. This isnít going to be as simple as Iíd thought. I was convinced that John Black would be our first choice, with his bulk and that terrifying visage. Now Iím doubtful. Look, you know all three applicants better than I do, so I think the best thing is for you to get them together. Dream up some spurious reason for them to visit you in a spot where thereís plenty of room, then try to goad them into combat and weíll see what happens.

    Adrian: Iíll do my best. See you a week today and let you know how things are going.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





  9. #149
    HOMECOMING

    Newlyweds Brian and Janet moved into a flat on the ground floor of a recently completed two-storey block. The following day Brian was walking home from work when he received a text from Janet, asking him to hurry as they had an emergency on their hands. He ran the remaining half-mile and found his wife outside the building, wringing her hands. Their conversation went as follows:

    Janet: Thank goodness youíre here. We have a big problem.

    Brian: Whatís up?

    Janet: Come in with me and see for yourself.

    They enter the flat

    Brian: The place is completely empty.

    Janet: Thatís right. Someoneís been here while we were at work and cleaned us out. They even took our curtains, the temporary carpets we laid in the living room and bedroom, and the light bulbs. Weíve nothing to eat or drink, and nothing to wear except what we have on now. How could they do such a thing? (She burst into tears.)

    Brian: Calm down. Weíre unhurt. So weíve lost all our belongings, but we still have some ready cash, our bank cards and pretty healthy savings and current accounts. We only need to spend a few nights in a hotel while we replace everything. Come to think of it, in our enthusiasm to equip the home we bought some stuff we might never have needed. This could be a good chance to think again about a few things. (He hugged his wife.)

    Janet: I must say youíre taking this remarkably well. Iíve never been so distressed. What about the personal things Ė photos, wedding presents and suchlike?

    Brian: Bagatelles. Weíll soon put everything right.

    Janet: Great. What a comfort it is to have you by my side. Iím beginning to feel less shattered already. Youíre an absolute rock.

    Brian: Told you before Iím good in a crisis. Chin up and weíll . . . oh, Iíve just of something thatís going to delight you.

    Janet: Whatís that?

    Brian: Well, no wonder this situation shook us both. I was taken aback as much as you were until it dawned on me that this place hasnít been locked up since we arrived. You may remember that when we were moving in, we happened to see the selling agent and I had a little chat with him. He told me heíd lost the key. Anyway, that doesnít concern us much because these downstairs flats are all laid out the same way and Ė ta ta ta taa Ė we live next door!

    * * *

    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





  10. #150
    AN INTRODUCTION TO CRICKET

    Bill: Well, Joe, you said you wanted to see a game of cricket, so that you could compare it with your own national game of baseball. Here we are at a test match, England versus Australia at Lordís. It doesnít get bigger than this.

    Joe: Iím looking forward to it. Now, they seem to be ready to start. Why is that umpire holding his arm out like that? Some kind of delay, is it?

    Bill: We canít begin until exactly eleven oíclock, so we have a few seconds to go. Ah, the armís gone down. Now weíre off . . . Oh, I say, the bowlerís lost his run-up. Heíll have to go back and try again.

    Joe: Why? He appears to be running at least thirty yards. Doesnít he have enough time to shuffle his feet or something to get it right?

    Bill: No. Look at the disc he put down. Thatís his marker. When heís getting into his stride, he has to land his forward foot at that spot, or his approach will be all awry. Now, here he goes. Oh, dear, heís had to abort again.

    Joe: Now what?

    Bill: The batsman isnít satisfied. Yes, I see what it is. He wants the sightscreen moved.

    Joe: Sightscreen? Ah, got it. You mean the big board over there on the boundary. It serves the same purpose as the batterís eye screen in our game.

    Bill: Thatís right. It has to be behind the bowlerís arm, so the batsman doesnít lose sight of the ball in the background.

    Joe: Gee, this game takes quite a while to get underway, doesnít it?

    Bill: Sometimes. Here we go again. Third time lucky, Joe. Oh, the batsman still isnít happy. Ah, I see. He has a wasp or something buzzing around him. Look at the way heís wafting at it.

    Joe: I wish heíd quit waving his arm and start swinging the bat.

    Bill: Oh, heíll get round to it any minute now. See, heís all set. Oh, my goodness. Thereís a spectator walking along the edge of the field, right behind the bowler. Silly man should know better than that. We canít have the batsman distracted. Ah, the fellowís sat down. Away we go. Well, actually, we donít.

    Joe: Whatís amiss this time?

    Bill: The bowlerís just decided to make a couple of changes. I see. Now he wants to operate with a fine long leg and a short square leg.

    Joe: His legs look okay right now. And anyway, howís he going to bowl in that condition?

    Bill: Oh, itís not to do with his anatomy. It concerns fielding positions on the leg side. Itíll be all right in a minute. There, you see. The bowlerís ready to come hurtling in. Oh, not quite.

    Joe: Would you care to enlighten me as to his latest problem?

    Bill: A bootlace is undone. He must have been failed to fasten it properly in the dressing room. Most likely in too much of a hurry to get out there and start the battle.

    Joe: He doesnít seem to have been in any rush since he ambled onto the field. This is amazing. The spectators have paid a lot of money to come here. Donít they get exasperated with so many hold-ups?

    Bill: Well, most of them understand these little sideshows, but some do become a bit restless at times. Anyway, weíre all set now. Oh no, weíre not. The bowlerís not satisfied about the state of the ball. Heís showing it to the umpires. If they agree with him they might have to produce another. That could take two or three minutes. Ah, itís okay. The complaintís been rejected. Now we can get going. Oh, hang on a moment. Now silly mid-on isnít happy.

    Joe: Who or what is silly mid-on?

    Bill: Itís that fielder whoís very close to the batsman. I think the position gets its name from the fact that itís potentially hazardous, so some people think that a foolish man is needed to occupy it. Heís called for a protective helmet to be brought out. It wonít take long.

    Joe: Tell you what, Bill. Iíll go and spend a little time in the bar. I have my cell phone. If play starts at some point, call me.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustnít sigh and you mustnít cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.





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