To hell with Britain: news from all over

Department of Religious Freedom: A Dutch court ruled that a woman does not have the right to wear a colander on her head in her passport and driving license photos. And just to be clear, that’s not because she’s a woman. A man doesn’t have that right either.

That strikes me as fair enough, but the story’s more complicated than it appears. We’re talking about religious freedom here.

The woman in question, Mienke de Wilde, was (this was in August, when the story appeared in the press) considering an appeal the the European Court of Human Rights. She’s a law student and I’m sure she’ll learn a lot from it. And talk about having something to put on your resume . . .

Irrelevant photo: If I remember my wildflowers correctly, this is a thistle. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

Dutch law bans headgear in identity photos but people can claim an exemption on religious grounds, and de Wilde was claiming one. She’s a Pastafarian, a member of a religion whose members worship an invisible, undetectable god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who created the universe. They wear colanders on their heads as a tribute to the god, although they consider it disrespectful to explain their beliefs without wearing full pirate regalia.

Why? “Because He becomes angry if we don’t,” the U.K. Pastafarian website says. I should probably have read the Dutch site, but I don’t read Dutch and don’t trust Lord Google to translate anything this important.

Since I’m short on pirate regalia, I’ll leave a full explanation of Pastafarian beliefs to someone with a better wardrobe, but I can at least say that believers are expected to be nice to all sentient beings and to eat a lot of pasta.

Pastafarianism is recognized by both the New Zealand government and the spell check system on my toy typewriter. The Dutch court didn’t exactly say it isn’t a real religion. It said, with the sobriety of which only a court is capable, “It may be the case that the colander is considered a holy object for Pastafarians, worn in honor of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but there is no obligation to do so. In fact, Pastafariansm has no obligations or restrictions.”

That does seem to be true. Pastafarianism’s short on obligations and don’ts. The church originally had ten I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts, but two got lost, so now it has only eight. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t demand or forbid much of anything. Except that  business about the pirate costume.

Department of Shhhh, This Is a Library: A librarian called in a bomb hoax to delay his plane because he was running late. That held it up for 90 minutes, but he still didn’t make it and was arrested when he got abusive with airline staff.  

Kind of changes your image of librarians, doesn’t it?

Department of Corporate Overreach: Procter & Gamble is trying (or at last reading, in August, was trying) to trademark some bits of the alphabet soup spread by text messaging, including LOL, WTF, NBD, and FML. I’ll translate those for the acronymically impaired: laughing out loud, what the fuck?, no big deal, and fuck my life.

The applications went to USPTO–the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Is P&G going to release a product called Fuck My Life? If so, can I sit in on the meetings where they work out a marketing strategy? Please?? I really need to be there and I promise to take notes and report back.

Sadly, it looks like all they want to do is use the letters to advertise existing products so that the millennial generation will think they’re cool. Or whatever today’s equivalent of cool is. Hot. Lukewarm. Fried. Acronymed. I’m 103 and exempt from having to be cool, hot, or anything in between.

The truth is that I never was cool but I no longer give a fuck (which just might make me cool–who knows?). It’s one of the lovely things about getting older, and we can reduce that to an acronym if my language offends anyone: INLGAF.

The USPTO asked P&G for clarification (I’ll bet they did), but according to the Independent, the BBC, and the Guardian, P&G declined to comment to the press.

Of those three, only the Guardian was willing to spell out what all the acronyms stand for. The others hid behind asterisks and “too rude to spell out.”

I think I said this before, back when the Royal Mail trademarked the shade of red it uses on trucks and mailboxes, but I never got around to doing anything about it: I’m going to trademark the word and. That means every time anyone else uses it, they have to put a little ™ (meaning trademark) sign beside it. Otherwise I get to sue them.  

Department of Truth in Blogging: That last paragraph contains a bit of urban mythology. When I worked as an editor, I ran into one or two writers who were convinced that if they mentioned a brand name they had to add ™ to avoid lawsuits and other forms of apocalypse. They didn’t. We didn’t. You don’t. Companies use the symbol to show that they’re claiming the word as a trademark. An R in a circle means roughly the same thing only more so, but WTF, let’s skip the details–they’re boring. The claim only matters to you if you’re another company in more or less the same field and want to use the word / name / phrase / color /acronym.

Department of Friendly and Accessible Government: Britain’s minister for immigration Twitter-blocked two applicants who, in desperation, tweeted her to ask for help when the Home Office wouldn’t reply to their appeals or to letters from their MPs. One was a citizen trying to prevent his long-term partner from being deported to Australia. The other was a citizen trying to get British passports for his Filippino-born adopted (and already British) children. The snag is that they have Filippino passports with their pre-adoption names. To change their names on the Filippino passports, the family would have to take the kids out of school and move to the Philippines, then he’d have to re-adopt the kids. It could take up to 18 months.

What the hell, people and their needs are all so complicated. It’s simpler just to block them.

Department of Endless Updates: Britain’s Home Office has updated its immigration rules 5,700 times since 2010. Or that was the number as of late August. That means they’ve more than doubled in length. They’re now 375,000 words long.

By way of comparison, the minimum length of a novel these days is (give or take a few ands or a the’s) 40,000 words. Most are between 60,000 and 100,000.

At least seven times, new guidelines were issued a week after the last ones were issued.

Judges and lawyers are tearing at their wigs in frustration. One said, “The changes are often hurried out, which means they can be badly written. They can be very difficult to understand, even for judges and lawyers.”

Another called it (with typical British understatement) “something of a disgrace.”

Department of Urban Wildlife: In August, New York City subway crews found two goats on the tracks of a Brooklyn subway line that was closed for repairs. The goats grazed their way down the line–I’d like to say happily but I wasn’t there and even if I had been I don’t know goats well enough to read their mood. But graze they did, right alongside the electrified third rail, until they were tranquilized and moved to a rescue center in New Jersey, where, even though I’m not there and et cetera, I’m absolutely sure they’re happy.

The area where they were found is close to some slaughterhouses and the goats are thought to have escaped from one. So yeah, good food, a nice wide river between them and the slaughterhouse? They’re happy.

Department of Technological Wonders: An article about policing the Notting Hill Carnival mentioned that the police aren’t going to use facial recognition software again this year. They tried it out for two years running and among other successes it managed to confuse a young woman with a balding man.

I struggle to recognize people–it’s called face blindness and I was endlessly relieved when I found a name for it that wasn’t Ellen’s clueless. But mixing up a young woman and a balding man? Even I’m not that bad.  

Department of Archeology: A 90,000-year-old bone fragment found in a Siberian cave turns out to be from a teenager whose DNA contains fragments from a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

Denisovans? They’re a recently discovered member of the human family tree and not much is known about them yet. The National Geographic says they were “a sister group of the Neanderthals, splitting from a common ancestor some 390,000 years ago. They likely lived until around 40,000 years ago, around the time when Neanderthals were also starting to fade away.”

This is the first evidence that the two groups interbred and raises the possibility that the lost groups weren’t wiped out by conflict or competition with modern humans, who arrived in Eurasia some 60,000 years ago,  but absorbed into the population.

Department of Lucrative Language: Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive of the Lloyds Banking Group, announced that “our differentiated, customer-focused business model continues to deliver with our multi brand, multi channel approach, cost leadership, low risk positioning, investment capacity and execution capabilities positioning us well for sustainable success in a digital world.”

He gets paid £6.4 million a year to say stuff like that.

Department of Modern Royalty: Once upon a time, a dispute over royal succession would’ve ended up on the battlefield or with a nice, quiet assassination. Today, someone who thinks he was cheated him out of Monaco’s throne is suing France for 351 million euros. The switch from one branch of the Grimaldi family to another took place in 1911, and France was, in fact, involved. 

Louis Jean Raymond Marie de Vincens de Causans said, “I want the truth to come out and this injustice perpetrated by France on my family to be put right.”

And, incidentally, he wants 351 million euros. And a few extra names, because six doesn’t seem like enough for someone of his caliber.

Department of Police Being Soft on Crime: The German police rescued a man who was being chased by a baby squirrel. When the police arrived, the man was being chased down the street, but the chase ended with the squirrel suddenly lying down and going to sleep.

Police officer Christina Krenz said that “squirrels that have lost their mothers look for a replacement and then focus on one person.”

The squirrel was taken into custody and instead of being charged is now a police mascot. It’s going to grow up thinking this sort of thing is acceptable behavior.

Department of Terrorist Threats: A man traveling from Belfast to London to see his father, who was starting treatment for cancer, missed his flight when airport security refused to let him take his wheelchair repair kit on the flight. The toolkit had some wrenches (called spanners in Britain), some spare wheel nuts, and medicine for diabetes.

When he challenged security over it, saying he needed the tools in case his wheels broke and so he could adjust his chair to fit into the car he’d rented on the other end,  they said the wrenches could be used to “dismantle the plane.”

I didn’t make that up.

Okay, how about if the cabin crew looked after the toolkit until he left the plane?


Could it go with the luggage?

Sorry, there was no time for that.

His partner publicized the incident on social media, and that had no connection to the apology he later received from the airport. The airport has agreed to make a donation to a disability charity, which is nice but doesn’t strike me as being anywhere close to enough.

I admit, I’m not sure what would be.

82 thoughts on “To hell with Britain: news from all over

  1. I think you would be correct in assuming those goats are enjoying life.

    Do you know how I might go about gaining employment in the department of lucrative language?

    It would save me having to learn to play football well in order to earn such sums of money :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, no. I missed out on getting hired there myself and ended up working as an editor and copy editor, which is to say I misunderstood people for a living. I loved it but lucrative language it wasn’t. I missed out of the football thing by being (a) female at a time when women’s sports were barely an afterthought, (b) small, and (c) allegic to sports. It was never going to work.

      This may already be clear, but just in case it’s not: I’m still female but I’ve reached the age where–well, a lot of things don’t work, football being one of the least important.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You can read the original Pastafarian website at You can also become an official ordained Pastafarian minister right online! I’m one, and I have a certificate and an ID card and everything. May you be Touched by His Noodly Appendage!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t–as far as I can tell, although how would I know?–been touched by his noodly appendage, but I did just see if today’s paper that a kayaker in New Zealand was slapped by an octopus that was being weilded by a seal. Does that count?

      P.S., when I was in school, we were still being taught that animals didn’t use tools. May the people who taught us that all be slapped by an octopus weilded by a seal.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. And from Costa Rica, currently enjoying a seventeen day strike by public service workers in protest at proposed fiscal reforms, a statement from those striking in the justice department….’if you cut judges’ perks they may be forced to become corrupt…’ As a friend said, what is currently forcing them, then?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve been wary of librarians, ever since the one in our high school library wouldn’t let me examine a reference book she had placed in a glass cabinet behind the desk. “That’s for display!” – “It’s a book, it has information I need, and this is a library!” I said without success.

    I’m sorry, but “I no longer give a fuck” was trademarked by Amazon so that people can’t say it to Alexa when she takes too long to answer their questions about how to burn a steak.

    Thanks for the bit about using TM and ® – I can always count on the educational value of coming here on Fridays.

    Personally, after working in New Jersey for a year, I might be happier in an abandoned subway tunnel, but the slaughterhouse proximity thing does change that.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You outdid yourself on this one. You may or may not remember that I have a thing about squirrels. A bad thing. I would shoot them if (a) I had a gun, (b) I knew how to use it and (3) it was legal. If a baby squirrel fixates on me, I will kill it and then you’ll have to write to me in jail.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I mean, who would not be happy in New Jersey. Look at Chris Christie. Who is happier than Chris.

    Here’s to happy goats everywhere.

    Europeans are said to be about 4% or so Neanderthal. As a per cent of their DNA. Some of them got slowly absorbed. Don’t know if it occurred at high school house parties by drunken prep school boys and unwilling young girls or not. Neanderthal Democrats wanted it invistigated but the sapient would not allow it. Boys will be boys and the date and place is unknown they said.

    Happy to see another news report. I see England is not the only crazy place.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’d sort of like to be followed by a baby squirrel, except that I would eventually go home, and then the cats would get it.

    I don’t like squirrels anywhere near a human residence, because they gnaw at roofs and walls like the rodents they are. I think we need free-range cats to keep them out of neighborhoods.

    They’re still unbearably cute, even when full-grown.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: To hell with Britain: news from all over – aunty everything

  9. Dismantling the plane with wrenches would give a whole new dimension to the suicide-bomber business.

    In the old-timey newspaper days (when I was a journalism major) August was known as The Silly Season, and you were likely to see reports of the monsters in the Great Lakes and in the Mississippi. So the time of year you were reading these might have been a factor. (Back then there were only 2 baseball leagues of 8 teams each and what would become the NFL didn’t start play until after Labor Day.)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I remember when that Pastafarian thing first made news… and it reminded me of the times I’ve seen women that I have actually had to ask whomever was with me, “Is that a hat on her head, or is that her hair?” So, I wonder if you are allowed to weave your own hair into the shape of a colander, if that’s acceptable? And if you did, do you think you could get a job at an Italian Restaurant as a spaghetti strainer and get a bonus since you don’t need to use their equipment?

    Liked by 1 person

    • What little I know about Pastafarianism leaves me with the impression that they’re a pretty accepting bunch, so weaving your own hair etc. would probably be okay. Remembering, of course, that I’m no theologian. But the job? That boiling water’s going to wreck the hairstyle. I don’t recommend it.


  11. We had a Pastafarian in Madison, WI a while back. If I remember correctly, he wanted to wear his “religious headdress” in his DMV photo and was granted the right. He was a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but that kind of stuff is pretty normal around here. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • And here I thought people from Wisconsin all wore cheese hats. Maybe that’s just what people in Minnesota chose to believe.

      I’d guess that if a Pastafarian gets the okay to wear religious headgear, half the fun’s over.


      • In the UK, we call people with attitudes like those airport staff “jobsworths” (“it’s more than my job is worth to allow anything that doesn’t follow my employer’s bizzare rules.”). There are plenty of them about. “Elf and safety” and/or “security” are frequently the so-called reasons for saying no and generally being unhelpful to customers, closely followed by “the computer says no”.

        Liked by 1 person

        • All very true, but the imagination involved in coming up with the idea of someone dismantling the plane from the inside using hand tools? That deserves an award of some sort. Or its own name, because that really does go beyond jobsworthiness.


  12. That was a great post! I loved the news from around the world, it was so much more entertaining than what we get on the TV here in the US. I thought at first you just misspelled Rastafarian, how cool to get the real story. Just wondering, since they have to dress like pirates, do they have to do anything special for “Talk Like a Pirate Day”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good question and I don’t know the answer. You’d have to find a Pastafarian–and then you’d have to make sure they were dressed in full pirate regalia so were free to explain. Such a complicated religion. The best I can do in the meantime is to say, not as far as I know. Unfortunately, that isn’t very far.


  13. My memory is a bit fuzzy. Is the Flying Spaghetti Monster the one whose symbol is the outline of a fish’s skeleton? Looking much like the skeletal remains of the fish some Christian’s attach to their cars. You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t get the punctuation wrong. It’s always such a big decision where to put the commas.

    The mind boggles at all the kids who will have their alphabet soup censored in coming years. Or will Campbell’s be sued for copyright infringement. This gets far too complicated for this antiquated brain.

    Then again, the news back here in the states, has been all over the Kavanaugh hearing. My favorite was a tweet I came across (tho I don’t normally Twitter). It had a picture of a calm, collected Hilary with the caption after 20 (?) hours of grilling by the GOP over Bengazi; below it was Kavanaugh (blubbering with a tear streaked face) pointing out that this was after “x number of” minutes. Quite the contrast. I don’t suppose you’d want to tackle this disturbing charade?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d love to tackle it but I tend to lose my sense of humor, and the agreement here seems to be that I at least try to be funny. I was about to write that it’s easier to see the absurdity in a country I didn’t grow up in, but I lose my sense of humor over the more important political developments here too.

      They Flying Spaghetti Monster is, I think, separate from the fish skeletons. Those–if I understand them right–were in response to the evangelical fish that appeared on the backs of cars. I can’t entirely explain the logic, but they did crack me up when they first appeared, as did the fish with feet that said “Darwin” instide them.

      And finally, I never did think about how dangerous alphabet soup could be. Careless of me.


  14. You’re right! I conflated the noodle being with the Darwin fish 🎣. Though I suspect the intended message was similar. Hard to keep the symbols straight. 🤪
    Very difficult to keep a sense of humor about the Kavanough stuff. I shouldn’t have suggested it. Privileged little turd 💩.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. If I understand correctly, Procter (a former client of mine, whose hegemonic practices I managed to survive) is trying to trademark alphabet soup that spells “S.P.A.N.N.E.R”? Ergo, P&G is Pastafarian and should be denied its driver’s license? Correct?
    (This can’t be happening. This is a nightmare and I want to WAAAAAAKE UP!)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “our differentiated, customer-focused business model continues to deliver with our multi brand, multi channel approach, …. ”
    Does the chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group even understand any of that? I know I’m now at the age where a short attention span is the norm, but years ago, I found that I would glaze over after reading just the first few words of stuff like that. What worries me is how anyone so senior in an organisation can ever think clearly about the issues that matter to their customers and shareholders when they’re constantly filling their heads with such meaningless guff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glazing over sounds like the best thing to do, kind of like turning off the engine when the car’s going to be sitting still for a long time. Why waste the energy? I can’t imagine that anyone writing that stuff thinks it means anything, but I admit that’s a guess.


      • I thought I’d have a go at unpicking the gobbledygook and this is what I came up with. I’ve put the subtext in square brackets []:

        “our differentiated, customer-focused business model”
        The way we do business is different to our competitors because we focus on the needs of our customers. [Well that’s what we want the world to think, even though our competitors say exactly the same thing. Actually we just want to make a profit by screwing our customers, like we’ve been doing for years.]

        “continues to deliver with our multi brand, multi channel approach,”
        We deliver financial services to our customers through several brands, and by various means (such as high street branches and web sites). [just like our competitors do, but the marketing guys told me to put this in]

        “cost leadership,”
        We aim to keep our costs low. [by closing as many branches and ATMs as we can get away with]

        “low risk positioning,”
        We also aim to keep our risks low. [because we screwed up in 2008 and now we have to keep our heads down until the politicians and the regulators take their eyes off the ball again]

        “investment capacity,”
        We have a lot of money to invest. [by making sure we pay customers a low rate on their savings account]

        “and execution capabilities”
        We are able to perform a lot of financial transactions. [high-risk, high-profit ones if we can get away with it]

        “positioning us well for sustainable success”
        All these things mean we should be able to make a profit for the foreseeable future. [and if we don’t and things get really bad, the government will bail-us out again anyway]

        “in a digital world”
        [The marketing guys told me to put this in because it sounds cool and everyone will think we know what the interweb is].

        Liked by 1 person

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