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09 January 2017
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08 January 2017

Introducing the Petty Complaints Ombudsman Service

Good evening, and if you're not having a good evening, what are you going to do about it? If the weather's not quite right, or your dinner's gone cold, or there's nothing on the television, or if the noise of the neighbours enjoying themselves is annoying you, then until now you've just had to lump it.

I say 'until now' since from the beginning of this month, people across the country have been able to submit their trifling, inconsequential whinges to us here at the Petty Complaints Ombudsman Service, where we will treat them with the respect they deserve.

Take this example from Gordon Bovary. Gordon is from Kidderminster, so he has a lot to complain about, but his current gripe reads like this:

Dear Sir,

Every night this week I have come home to find a cheap family hatchback parked on the road outside my house. Not only is this car a filthy, bird muck-encrusted eyesore, it has been wilfully positioned in such a way that I have had to walk an extra seven feet in order to reach my front gate.

This is intolerable.

Naturally I have remained alert all week and yesterday I was fortunate enough to catch its owner returning just as I was having my tea. I rushed out to remonstrate with him, angrily gesturing with a fork, and such was my haste that a half-eaten sausage was still impaled on its tines. He could clearly see that I meant business as I forcefully pointed out what rude and anti-social behaviour he was exhibiting.

Do you know what he said? 'It's a free country,' he said. Just like that, the barefaced swine.

Well, I told him. Not when I pay road tax, it isn't. Then he started jabbering on about legal rights and some such stuff, but I wasn't really listening because I was acutely aware that my tea was getting cold.

Anyway, I'm right though, aren't I? Aren't I though? Eh?

Yours Faithfully

Gordon Bovary.

Well, that one's going straight in the shredder. But not all of our complaints are about parking. Most of them are, but not all. Take this email from Jenny_Catlover45552, for example.

are u the peeple wot I complane 2 about the peeple nextdoor, there dog is barkin all the day and they wont do nuthing about it. on wensday it come over the fense and started mesing in my gardin. i tol them that they woznt to let it come over and that if it come over again i wos goin to ring the police and get them done. but then the man sed to me to F off, but i didn't F off, i tol him to F off then i chucked his dog poo back over the fense. then i rung up the police but they sed it woz nuthing to do with them and they sed i shud put it in riting to u. to be honest, it sounded like they woz telling me to F off azwell. so can you arrest my naybour please?

We've got people trying to decipher that one at the moment and will reply in due course - although it's highly likely that our response will be along the same lines as the one the police gave her.

One thing we find is that many of our correspondents are highly knowledgeable legal experts, and obviously this makes our job a whole lot easier. For instance, we have experts on consumer affairs:

Hello

I want something done about our local supermarket as they have flagrantly violated my legal rights. Every day for the past year and a half I have been buying a salmon and dill sandwich, a packet of cheese and onion crisps and a diet coke as part of their meal deal. Yesterday lunchtime when I went to make my usual purchases I was told by the assistant that the salmon and dill sandwich is no longer part of the deal. I explained to her that she was actually breaking the law and she had to include the sandwich in the meal deal because of the Consumer Credit Act, but she pretended to not know what I was talking about. She refused to budge even when I told her she could be arrested, so I would like something done about this shameful situation immediately.

Sincerely

Gwendoline Parrot

On Employment:

Hi there. Hope you are well.

I've got a problem. The woman who runs the newsagent's near the station is five minutes late in opening up every morning, meaning that I am always late in purchasing my newspaper. This always makes me very anxious that I may miss my train. This hasn't happened yet, but I'm aware that it's bound to happen at some point in time, and this anxiety provides me with a very uncomfortable start to the day and makes me feel on edge all the time.

As a junior employee of a small logistics company, I know that lateness is one of three things that constitutes gross misconduct (the others being theft and swearing at the boss's children). It is my belief, therefore, that this woman should be sacked.

I have made a few brief enquiries and it turns out that this woman is in fact the owner of the business. Due to this technicality she remains unwilling to dismiss herself, even though I spent some time arguing the point with her just the other morning. I told her in no uncertain terms that her status as proprietor in no way absolved her of her legal duty to sack herself, but she stubbornly refused. Distressingly, as a result of that conversation I missed my train and was banned from the shop for life - which I believe is yet another breach of the law as it contravenes my human rights.

Anyway thanks. Hope you can sort this out.

Gary Poke-Stoges

Assistant to the Executive Head of Meetings

Frisbee Digitally Tracked Logistical Interface Solutions

This email and any attachment is intended for the addressee only. If you have received it in error please don't say anything to my boss. I shouldn't really be doing this during work time, let alone using my work account. In fact, I probably didn't send it all. Yeah, that's it - I bet Kevin sent it when I nipped off to the toilet and forgot to lock my workstation. All right?

And on health and safety:

Hey! Whenever I'm watching the TV and the ads come on the volume always goes up. Surely this is illegal because it could damage my hearing? I'M NOT BLOODY DEAF, YOU KNOW! Anyway, can you see about getting me some compensation?

Cheers.

It's easy to form the opinion that the authors of complaints such as these are spoilt time-wasters with zero sense of perspective and far too much time on their hands. But such an outlook would be doing them a disservice and putting me out of a job. Here at the Petty Complaints Ombudsman Service we realise that everyone has a right to an opinion, however worthless it may be, and by inviting these whinging gasbags to send their ridiculous grievances our way we are at least sparing everyone else the pain of having to deal with them.

If you have a petty and frivolous complaint, and you're looking for someone to pretend to take you seriously, please submit it below and it will be ignored in due course.

Your complaint:

 

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07 January 2017

Quality Service at Pooley's

Pooley's Service Station

If, like me, you appreciate a satisfying retail experience, then you might find that visiting your local petrol station can be a bleak and dispiriting affair. However, I'm happy to say that in my case those days are now gone, ever since I discovered Pooley's Service Station and Convenience Store on the A39, just outside Barnstaple.

Oh certainly they have the full quota of available fuels, including LPG, and their confectionery range, situated within easy reach beside the cash register, is exemplary - I can confirm that they stock Twixes in both standard and deluxe sizes. But they can also boast something else - quality service.

All too often these days the purchase of fuel and associated motoring paraphernalia is accompanied by a surly disregard for the comfort and wellbeing of the purchaser, usually delivered by some callow and pimpled youth with little understanding of the value of a really good de-icer or a superior screen wash. That's not the case at Pooley's, where the staff are fully trained in as wide a range of motoring products as you'll find anywhere this side of Taunton Deane. And I do mean fully trained. Want to know which air freshener will best complement the slightly worn leather interior of a 2013 Mk V Ford Mondeo? These are the guys to ask.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking to owner Mike Pooley, an easy-going chap with some refreshing ideas about non-standard headlight modifications. He told me that quality customer service has always formed the bedrock of his operations. "If customers don't drive off our forecourt happier and more fulfilled than when they arrived," he told me, "then we very much feel that we've failed in our duty." And it is a duty. A very real one.

Mike was also very keen for me to mention the special two-for-one offer that they are currently running on Turtle Wax, and with top deals like that it's hard to see how they could possibly fail to provide satisfaction. But don't imagine that their attention to detail is limited to the motorist's trusty steed (car); they also provide fodder enough for the rider. What I'm trying to say is that they also do a full range of snacks and pies. In fact, they have just about everything you could possibly imagine to assist the weary traveller on his way. Their sandwich range is extensive, encompassing old favourites such as cheese and ham as well as more exotic fare such as egg and cress or chicken tikka, all of which are within their sell-by date. Their range of cold drinks, likewise, leaves little to be desired: they stock both Coke and Pepsi, as well as a more reasonably priced budget alternative.

But if it's something more substantial that you're looking for, then fear not - there is a microwave free for the use of any customers who purchase a qualifying product, plus a hot drinks machine. So why not treat yourself to a warming cup of hot chocolate as you peruse the impressive magazine display, or flick though the eclectic selection of mid-priced CDs at the counter?

Whatever your preference, Pooley's Service Station has something to make your journey a little easier. I can heartily recommend it, and although I'm not local and don't own a car, I can say without hesitation that I am happy to travel upwards of 140 miles out of my way for the sake of a cup of coffee and a Ginsters pasty served at just the right temperature.

This blog post was sponsored by Pooley's Service Station and Convenience Store. Call now for great deals on antifreeze.

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29 December 2016

A Brief Word

We sincerely hope that everyone enjoyed their Christmas and wish you all a happy New Year. For your information there now follows a brief list of names which will feature prominently on The University of the Bleeding Obvious in 2017.

Hercule Merkel

Tobias Poon

Dame Jerimiah Treacle

Mr Bellicose Cheesebiscuit

Shirley Twirly from Purley

Zachariah Pump

Ron and Nellie Butterprompter

Barbie Leg

Lord Sidewinder of Kintyre (Tuesdays only)

The Right Reverend Dennis Cake

As yet, no biographical data is available for these persons. We regret that Dorian Spanners will not be available for the foreseeable future. Thank you.

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20 December 2016

 

David Attenburger's Wonderful World of Nature

The Moroccan Dancing Mole

Dusk in the Serengeti and as the dusty orb of the sun touches the tops of distant hills, turning their peaks into burning pillars of red, a movement beneath the dry earth causes ripples and eddies in the red baked soil. Slowly a pink nose breaks through the hard ground, followed by strong claws, scratching away until the gap is wide enough for the animal to emerge. Its shabby coat is slick with grease and grime, and it half-heartedly tries to shake the dirt free as it sits panting and wheezing, trying its best to recover from its efforts.

This is the Moroccan Dancing Mole, though why it bears that name is lost in the mists of time. It has never been observed to dance, preferring to slump sullenly on the edge of dancefloors and just watch. The most common explanation is that the early Europeans who first identified it were simply attempting to be ironic.

This one is a long way from home: Morocco is roughly three thousand six hundred miles away as the crow flies - even longer as the mole digs. But journeys of such length, even if they're not intentional, are not unusual when you can't see where you're going.

Moles are as blind as bats, which, notwithstanding the curious subterranean habits of the stub-nosed tunnelling bat, is all that the two species have in common. But whereas bats can rely on sophisticated sonar techniques, a heightened sense of spatial awareness and sat-nav to find their way about, moles enjoy no such luxuries.

This one is no different. Three months ago it set out on what it thought would be a short trip to the bazaar in Marrakech to pick up a pint of milk, some crusty baps for the weekend and a Curly Wurly as a special treat. Right now it's sitting the middle of a baking plain, surrounded by zebras and wondering where the off licence has gone.

It sniffs the air, cocks its head to one side listening for the slightest clue as to its whereabouts and shuffles round in a little circle. Night is quickly approaching, and with it the cool breeze. A new cast of predators will shortly take to the stage. This tiny, vulnerable creature, all alone in this strange and terrifying environment, doesn't know much, but it knows enough to realise that it should leave this place. With an almost world-weary sense of resignation, it crawls back into the earth, disappearing back into its dark netherworld to continue its journey and end up who knows where.

Clueless though the Moroccan Dancing Mole may be, it has nevertheless provided researchers with a valuable insight into a question that has puzzled them for some time: can moles swim? They have most certainly never been observed to. Go to any municipal swimming pool and you can be confident that you will never see a mole lazily gliding through the water on its back, or playfully splashing about in the shadows. You will see more than your fair share of stoats and weasels practising their front crawl in the main pool, vigorously towelling themselves off in the changing rooms or embarrassing themselves from the top diving board. But moles have always remained conspicuous by their absence.

And there is a very good reason why the ability to swim might be very important. Because navigation when you are almost blind is a practical impossibility for them, they are constantly driving their tunnels in directions that are simply not healthy for them. There are many reports of lost moles emerging on cliff faces and plummeting to their deaths, getting irretrievably entangled in the roots of trees or simply dashing their brains out by colliding head on with buried rocks. The law of averages surely dictates that they must quite frequently emerge underneath rivers and lakes. Why then have we no reports of their pitiful and misguided carcasses unhappily bubbling to the surface?

It took a team of researchers two years to find the answer, and when they did it turned out to be rather startling: they build airlocks.

Using a vast purpose-built landscape in which they could study the moles at their leisure, researchers observed exactly what happened when the moles were in danger of tunnelling up through the bed of an artificial lake. The moment the mole detects the first few spots of moisture on the tip of its nose, it springs into action. Using materials that it scavenges from its immediate surroundings - sticks, rocks, discarded bean tins and old inner tubes - it fashions a remarkably sophisticated airlock mechanism, tightly bound together with worms to make it airtight.

Using this arrangement, the mole can pass in and out of the water without the risk of flooding its carefully excavated network of tunnels. And, as it turns out, they can't swim, but they can hold their breath and actually cut quite graceful figures as they stroll up and down, annoying the fish.

Mole airlock

It seems then that water actually presents very few problems for the average mole, whether it's a rushing torrent sweeping through a North American ravine, a muggy swamp on the equator...

... or here in the Arctic, where the wind sweeps a fine cloud of powdered snow down icy slopes to settle on the surface of bright blue pools of crystal brine, ringed with frost.

For a moment all is still then a dark shape from below comes rushing upwards, bobbing violently to the surface and spitting a huge plume of brackish water into the air. This is our Moroccan Dancing Mole again, still no closer to the off licence. Maybe it should have turned left at that last boulder, it thinks as it glances round in dismay and shivers. It treads water for a little while, hoping that one of the locals will come along so that it can ask directions, but after a few short minutes it decides that it's just a bit too nippy round here. It'll catch its death if it hangs about any longer, so it fixes on a likely direction, takes a deep breath, puffs out its fat furry cheeks and disappears back below the surface with a wet plop.

 

The University of the Bleeding Obvious Annual 2017

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There is growing concern over the dwindling numbers of veterinary surgeons currently practising in the UK. Many vets are leaving the profession to take up better paid positions as hairdressers or butchers. At the same time, there is less and less new blood coming into the field, a fact which is blamed on the many years of training and the unnecessarily stringent examinations needed to obtain a veterinary licence. The final exam requires students to assemble a fully functional cat from a variety of spare parts, and candidates can often fail on the simplest of things, such as getting a spleen in the wrong place.

However, a radical new rethink is set to encourage more people to become vets. To make the profession more accessible the test will be made much easier. In future, students will be required to draw a picture of a dog with a felt-tipped pen, and we understand that even those that only display a passing resemblance will pass.

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