Feelgood stories and fuckups: It’s the news from Britain

In 2018, Dean Nicholson was biking from Scotland to Thailand and  on his way through Bosnia picked up a stray kitten who ran after him, miaowing. He fed her what he had on hand, some red pesto sauce. Where I come from, pesto’s green and doesn’t appeal to protein-addicted cats, but the cat was hungry and not about to argue. It was food. She ate it and fell in love.

If you’re British, you should understand that when I say he was biking we’re talking about a push bike. If you’re American, you have no idea what a push bike is. It’s a bike. If you’re neither American or British, you’re on your own because I can’t predict what you’ll understand well enough to translate for you.

The (push)biker asked the vet in the nearest town if anyone had lost a cat, and when no one had he installed her in his handlebar basket and headed for Montenegro. The kitten climbed up his arm to ride on his shoulders instead. That was the point where he fell in love.

A rare relevant photo: This is Fast Eddie, the resident cat. He doesn’t ride bikes,  doesn’t eat red pesto, and isn’t going anywhere he can’t walk. What’s more, I’ve used the photo before.

They’ve been in more than twenty countries since then, he’s made a bed for her in the basket, and the cat, now named Nala, either sleeps there or rides with her paws hanging over the side so she can look out. 

She has her own passport.

If you’re a sucker for cats, the photos are worth clicking through for.

They’d planned to go to Iran but tense politics and a ban on cats in hotel rooms meant they had to turn back. What choice did they have?

In Greece, the human worked as a kayak guide and the cat as a kayak mascot. Lockdowns kept them in Hungary for twelve weeks and closed borders in Austria have kept them from biking through Russia to Thailand, but in the meantime the human has published a book, Nala’s World: One Man, His Rescue Cat, and a Bike Ride around the Globe. I have no idea if it’s any good, but anybody who rescues a stray cat and bikes across a continent with her–and hopes to bike through a second continent as well–deserves a plug.

*

As long as we’re talking about animals and Thailand, the Mu Koh Lanta National Park there has appealed to the public to donate cone-shaped shells by either mail or courier service. The population of hermit crabs has expanded dramatically and the crabs aren’t finding enough empty shells to live in. (Hermit crabs don’t make their own shells.) Some are moving into bottle caps, glass bottles, and cans. 

So far, 200 kilos of shells have been pledged and volunteers will distribute them at a Thai Father’s Day event on December 5. 

It’s not clear why the hermit crab population has grown so. It could be the absence of tourists and the activities that go with them, but it could also be water currents, the weather, the availability of plankton, or other factors.

*

A court in Stoke-on-Trent (and here we get back to Britain) listed upcoming hearings for defendants Tinker Bell, Buzz Lightyear, Sleeping Beauty, Daphne Duck, Bugs Bunny, and a few other miscreants, including some real people who appeared by videolink from prison. 

Guesswork explanations around the courthouse involved someone quitting their job and taking revenge before they headed out the door. Disappointingly, the names turned out to be a way to test the system after it was upgraded. 

The system worked. Entirely too well. 

I used to work with a typesetter (remember typesetters? Oh, you are getting old) who was hired to set some stickers for a meatpacking plant. You know: “turkey legs and thighs,” that kind of thing. She added one that read, “The Pope’s nose: the part of the turkey that went over the fence last.” She assumed the person who’d hired her would have a good laugh and pull it before it went to the printer. 

She became the proud owner of several rolls of Pope’s nose stickers.

*

It could’ve been worse. A French radio station’s website (yes, we’ve left Britain again) ran the obituaries of a hundred people who hadn’t had the decency to die yet. They included Queen Elizabeth II, Brigitte Bardot, and Pele. Also Jimmy Carter, Yoko Ono, Clint Eastwood, Raul Castro, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

For one of them, Bernard Tapie–a French businessman and politician–this wasn’t the first time he’d been prematurely obituarized. It was the third. At 77 (which looks younger every year), he could live long enough to have it happen several more times.

*

The spam award of the month goes to one that I dug out of my very own WordPress spam folder: “I made over 6.4 million dollars this year using an online platform! And now, this is my main source of income!” 

Which means he or she is sending out spam for a hobby.

*

Book lovers and readers who love independent bookshops and want to see them survive can buy from a new online shop that supports independent bookshops. The site operates in both the UK and the US and is set up to let the shops feature books they like, reproducing what they’d do in a physical shop by putting them on a table for browsers to find. 

You can also use the site to look for a specific book or to see what’s available on, say, the history of Mediterranean countries in the fifteenth century (more than I thought, although after the first half dozen the algorithm got a little strange, picking up the fifteenth edition of a rail atlas of Britain and, making a connection I can’t follow, a book on crocheting).  

One of the many reasons to support independent bookstores is that they can put books they love–books you might not find otherwise–out where you can find them. Online outfits generally do this by algorithm (yes, that book on crocheting); chains put out books they’re paid to put out. (Yes, really.)  

The only thing that would make the site better would be if you could open the book and read a few paragraphs, the way you might in a store.

*

The son of a composer with dementia recorded his father, Paul Harvey, improvising on the piano one day and posted it on Twitter. 

It started, the son said, because it “wasn’t a great day. I remembered this old party trick he used to do, where someone would give him four random notes and he’d compose something on the spot. . . . So I picked four notes out of the ether and Dad did exactly the same thing. And luckily, I filmed it.” 

The elder Harvey said his memory’s fine when he’s playing the piano.

Twitter went nuts, as Twitter does sometimes, and the tune ended up on Radio 4, the BBC’s high-end talk radio station. From there it went to the BBC Philharmonic, where someone arranged it, and musicians recorded their parts from home. blending them into Harvey’s piano recording. 

The BBC recording–and as part of it, a video of Harvey listening to it–is on YouTube and it’s well worth watching. At the end of the recording, Harvey tells his son, “I was just listening to a wonderful piece of music, and all of a sudden I said to meself, ‘I wrote that.’ 

“I won’t forget that.”

Go on. Watch it. Really.

Money from the recording is going to the Alzheimer’s Society and Music for Dementia.

80 thoughts on “Feelgood stories and fuckups: It’s the news from Britain

  1. We yanks call ‘em bicycles.

    I’m not fond of cats, more because of their owners than that critters themselves, but I do like a good cat story. Oddity enough, I like their larger cousins more, maybe because they don’t have owners. Shame they’re stuck, hopefully not for long.

    How did he peddle across the English Channel? SCUBA gear? Practiced holding his breath for a long time? Wet journey no matter how he did I it. Enquiring minds need to know.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Have you seen the other cyclist story of the week? Someone aged 87 rode from Land’s End to John O’Groats only to find that someone slightly older had taken the record – so he did it again the next year. I thought I’d share that, as I’m not fond of cats or Bernard Tapie (Google him, he has history!).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wonderful, wonderful, wondrous. You’ve made me feel better about the way life should be. I’m not a cat person (allergies), but I love the mental image of the cat going round the world with the biker. Thank you.
    I will look up the Paul Harvey video.
    P.S. We finished The Crown last night. Never ready for it to be over.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One would think (if one were a pretentious twat) that you’d gone all soft on us but I suspect that this is merely a ‘gin and it’ before continuing with how BoJo is going at making a meal for his mates in the mess.
    Here’s hoping the independent bookshop site does well enough to expand beyond the US.
    Re cats, if well-fed domesticated cats could be trained to destroy only introduced species merely for the fun of it, I might even go all warm and runny inside but until then …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, cats are basically little furry horrors. But they hypnotize us and we’re helpless.

      I figured I owed everyone a break from my rants. But there’s only just so much likable news available in the world just now, so I’ll be back soon in the form that you know me.

      Like

  5. >Disappointingly, the names turned out to be a
    >way to test the system after it was upgraded.

    This is a standard programming practice when you need test material to fill your database. The idea is that it should be so obviously fake that no one will ever mistakenly publish it. Unfortunately, ‘idiot proof’ remains a moving target.

    On the bright side, we may finally get a resolution to the case of Batman vs Superman!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved the music video – especially his reaction to Sondheim’s appearance. Like people in comas, it is frustratingly (for their loved ones) easy to give up on what they are still capable of understanding.. The kitty link was behind a pay wall but I bet I can find it at length on some of the other cat sites I frequent. Thank you for the change of pace !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Where’s Ellen and what have you done with her? Just kidding! Loved this post. I got lost checking out every link….about an hour ago, and one made me a little weepy. There’s the proof. Now I need a cat named Tinkerbell to boss me around, give me a look that it’s contemplating my obituary, lay on the keyboard, and basically keep me in line. Thank you for the good time, looking forward to the next!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure how to explain the personality change. Should we blame the cats? Ours, by the way, Fast Eddie, managed to stroll onto my keyboard and take a screenshot of nothing in particular. It annoys the hell out of me because, in spite of endless instructions on how to do that, I still can’t manage it. Maybe the trick is to walk on the keyboard.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love all of these stories, but the story of Paul Harvey hits home the most since I am a musician, and have a family full of people involved in the arts. I am a jazz guy first and have taught improvisation. One of the first lessons I teach is for the student to improvise on four different notes only. There is another family story similar to my teaching and the story you mention, which I have published in my great great grandmothers autobiography, Emily Loyson. Her first son was a gifted pianist, and when they relocated to Europe she looked for a new teacher for him. They hired Franz Liszt to give him private lessons. Emilie moved to a new apartment but the piano had not arrived yet. There was an old piano that was left in the apartment that was used mostly as a shelf for knick-knacks. The day came for his regular weekly lesson. Liszt arrived to give him his lesson but Emilie said the movers had not delivered the piano yet. Liszt said; “But what is that in the corner over there?”. She replied that it was a very old piano in poor working order. Liszt said “Nonsense” and proceeded to run his fingers over the keys with only a smattering of notes that worked. He then sat on the piano bench and proceeded to improvise on those notes which Emilie described as the most beautiful composition she had ever heard. This is a lesson for all musicians!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Luckily Emilie was a prolific writer and left an unpublished autobiography for me to find 100 years later stashed in the Geneva public library. Of course she could not use her name when publishing, she was E. J. Meriman and later E. J. Loyson. Of course that still goes on today, example J. K. Rowling!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I had a passing thought, many years ago, about doing that myself. I was saved by not having a middle name. Commercially, it may still be a good strategy. Of course, it still doesn’t guarantee that you’ll sell a gazillion books, only that you won’t be held back by being noticeably female.

          Like

    • I do know. My mother had a series of small strokes before she died and lost a lot of who she was to them. She spent all of one evening trying to tell me something about her mother, getting partway through a sentence before running out of words, adding a bit more to it the next time, finally getting the whole thought out much, much later. What really interested me was that it was something she’d never said before and it could well have been a new insight into her mother rather than an old one that she’d never shared. It left me wondering if the mind inside there was working better than her ability to use language showed. I don’t know what possibility would be more heartbreaking.

      Liked by 2 people

        • Interesting. I just looked it up (https://www.healthline.com/health/does-uv-kill-coronavirus#how-its-used) and it does look like a promising lead, but not yet a silver bullet. Still, all bits of hope are good to hear.

          For anyone who doesn’t want to bother with the link, the article’s summary is: “UVC light can effectively kill SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Much of the research on this topic focuses on far-UVC light. This is a type of UVC light that still kills germs but is less harmful to humans.

          “UVC light is mainly used for disinfection in healthcare settings. While you can buy a UVC light lamp for your home, remember that these lamps are often lower in intensity.

          “Also, the optimal length of exposure, wavelength, and dose of UVC light needed for killing the new coronavirus is yet to be determined.”

          It doesn’t disinfect areas in shadow; some types of UVC light can cause skin and eye damage and prolonged exposure can be hard on fabrics and plastics. The lamps can contain mercury and ozone. I’m starting to sound like that mumbled, high-speed health warning at the end of an ad. Sorry.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I received this article from my google alerts. This is very promising for the future. The present is very dim, specially in my former residence of the US of A. These lights are being developed with warp speed and now being used in the airlines. There is a company in Florida that is distributing the lights to restaurants with instructions on the best way to install them. The shadow issue is just for surfaces. The most promising aspects of these lights is that they disinfect the air, which is the most common form of transmission. I received more google alerts today!

            Liked by 1 person

            • They’re an exciting possibility. And yes, the air’s where the real danger is. This might be worth a quick read, though: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-11-covid-collateral-germicidal-lamps-corneas.html?utm_source=nwletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily-nwletter

              I haven’t gone through it slowly yet, just took a quick glance and stockpiled it to read later (I hope) today. At the moment, we’re relying on open windows or the great outdoors when we get together with people. It’s chilly but survivable.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks, I will check them out before publishing my update on far UVC. Another one of my US friends tested positive a few days ago. So far she has no serious symptoms but broke out in hives and had difficulty sleeping because they were so bad. The US is in deep dodo!

                Liked by 1 person

              • I’m so sorry to hear that. So far (against all the odds) most of our friends and family in the US haven’t been infected. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s a strange feeling living abroad when your home country’s in such deep shit. On the one hand, I’m grateful. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that I should be there and involved.

                Like

              • After reading the first article I must include warnings against using regular UVC lamps and explain the science. Eye problems are no fun. I was recently diagnosed with macular degeneration. Eyesight is so important.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Agreed completely. My partner has that. She had to stop driving for several years, then had a cataract removed and the change was just short of miraculous. Her sight will never be what it was, but she’s driving again and life’s much simpler. (We live in the country, where public transportation’s more of a gesture than a reality.) Wishing you well.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Upon reading the article about harm to the eyes from UVC, I noticed that the original report was from June. They mistakenly mentioned the injuries were from far UVC lamps which is impossible since no far UVC lamps were being commercially sold at that time! They were still being tested at Columbia University for safety and effectiveness. Then I saw who published it and it was a far right journal of dodgy reputation! I am lucky that my eye problem was diagnosed early. My eye doctor prescribed a natural product that slows the progression. I first had problems in November of 2019. It took until last month for a doctor to finally give me the diagnoses. I suspected this from the start since my grandmother, my aunt, (her daughter), and my sister all have macular degeneration, and studies have shown a genetic link. In the next few years there are a number of treatments that will be approved. I also have the start of a cataract in my left eye but it is not noticeable now. I am a retired musician and have worked with and met thousands of people. That is why covid has hit so many people I know. The most recent death was entertainer Ian Finkel.

                Liked by 1 person

              • I didn’t go back to trace the source of that article. Apologies. I’ve treated Medical Express as reputable, but it sounds like I need to be more skeptical.

                Like

              • Here is the source: “New York Daily News
                Indeed, a study published in the Nature journal in June found that, “while staying within current regulatory dose limits, low-dose-rate far-UVC exposure … “This publication is so bad that it is blocked here in Portugal. The Medical express article is accurate about UVC germicidal lamps being dangerous to the eyes. I just received another article about a Canfield University researching the far UVC lamps which is very positive. https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/press/news-2020/safe-ultraviolet-light-could-be-used-to-sterilise-high-risk-covid19-environments There is a lot of bad reporting in the US!

                Liked by 1 person

              • The Daily News is a rag and always was. (I grew up in New York.) But I just did a very quick google search and came up with an NBC report from 3 days ago, referencing work at the U of Florida: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/doctors-warn-about-eye-damage-uv-lights-kill-coronavirus-n1249009 It quoted a useful suggestion: “People who want to use the lamps should turn them on and then leave the room until it’s time to turn them off.”

                Like

              • I am suspecting that there is an anti far UVC discrediting being initiated. Again UVC is not far UVC. UVC is very dangerous and should only be used in vacated rooms. Why would anyone want to discredit far UVC lamps? I will tell you. These lamps if widely used, eliminate 95% or more of all infectious germs. What does that mean? The elimination of the transmission of all airborne and surface born diseases! Who will lose billions if not trillions of dollars in sales for the treatment of these many diseases? The pharmaceutical companies. I don’t know if you watch any comercial or cable news programs but I have noticed that there is absolutely no coverage of the development of far UVC lamps on any of them. Why? Because one of the main advertisers on these outfits is pharmaceutical companies. Occasionally I watch live streamed MSMBC and CNN which contains the US commercials. Almost every comercial break has an advert for some medication! Put two and two together. They do not want a simple solution to end the spread of these diseases including Covid, because people will no longer need the medications that they sell! Most pharmaceutical companies use collegiate labs to test their new medications so it is easy for them to sponsor articles that discredit germicidal lamps. I am sure there will be many more to come. Notice that the article never mentions far UVC lamps.When I finish my article I will mention this and forward it to the media outfits and I bet I will not get any responses from them.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Another thing about the anti UVC article. It gives faulty advise! It states that “People who want to use the lamps should turn them on and then leave the room until it’s time to turn them off.” this is a big wrong. You should never turn on the UVC lamps when you are in the room! Even with a very short exposure you can damage your eyes and skin. All UVC germicidal lamp products are shipped with a timer or remote control device that lets you turn on the device when you are out of the room! Some even have motion sensors that automatically shut off the device if the detect any presence in the room. I will respond to this article!

                Liked by 1 person

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