Animal welfare charities have recently reported a disturbing new trend in instances of cruelty to tortoises. Certain individuals have taken to waiting for them to go into hibernation and then 'bricking up their shells'. Although the animals remain quite comfortable and secure during the winter months, come spring they become confused and disorientated as they attempt to emerge only to find that their entrances have been blocked by several courses of badly pointed brickwork.
"It's a very distressing experience for them," said welfare officer Miriam Lettuce. "They go into a panic and try to force their way out through the leg holes. And even when they do manage to get out, many of them are so traumatised that they abandon their shells completely and live the rest of their lives as fat lizards."
Dairy farmer Fergus Pong has staged a protest outside his local benefits office following a decision not to award Employment Support Allowance to his favourite cow. The benefit, which is given to assist people who are no longer able to work due to ill health, is not usually awarded to animals of working age, and Mr Pong believes that this is inherently unfair.
"It's not my Daisy's fault that she can no longer operate a lathe," said Pong, who tells us that his cow had worked for ten years in a small engineering firm in Staffordshire before contracting a rare tropical disease from a pig who worked in the canteen. "Now, whenever she's on her feet for more than ten minutes at a time she comes over all dizzy and has to have a lie down. Well, that's no good is it? When she went for her assessment the man there asked her if she could sit on a chair without feeling discomfort for more than twenty minutes. Well of course she can, so the man there pronounced her fit for work. Well what good is that? Who goes around employing cows to sit in chairs for twenty minutes at a time? There's no money in that lark. If there was, we'd all be doing it."
Mr Pong is currently helping Daisy to appeal against the decision and he is confident of success. He is also expecting good news after assisting his chickens to apply for Working Tax Credit.
We've had a letter from a Mrs Edna Womble of Hartlepool. Mrs Womble writes:
Dear Mr Obvious
My nephew recently bought a leopard from a major high street pet shop, but on getting it home he discovered that it was all bitey and kept trying to rip his arm off. Well, we did just what anyone else would do and took it back to the shop but the shop assistant said that they didn't do refunds and wouldn't give me my money back. Well, of course, I demanded to see the manager but he was off sick after been attacked by a mountain lion the week before. Naturally I stood my ground; I told them that I knew my rights and that I wasn't prepared to leave until I had seen someone in authority. Eventually the assistant manager came out of the back, covered in bandages and scratch marks, and bleeding profusely, but he just tried to fob me off by telling me we could exchange it for two hyenas or an okapi. I left the shop in a huff, promising to write a stern letter to his head office , returning only to collect my nephew, whom I found swaying hypnotically in front of the tank with the big snake in it.
I am presently in the process of penning my letter of complaint, in which I point out the defective nature of the leopard, the lack of safety warnings on the box and the fact that the only instructions appear to be in Italian. But my question is this - bearing in mind the terrible effect that this has had on my impressionable young nephew, my own status as an elderly and fragile pensioner, and mindful of the personal stress and anxiety that this situation had generated, how much should I ask for in compensation?
Mrs Edna Womble
Well thank you for your letter Mrs Womble. A tricky situation indeed. But I'm afraid you're confusing us with someone else. Try a consumer site.
Stuck for a last minute present this Christmas? Well, according to Speedy Critters, a national chain of pet stores, you couldn't do much worse than one of their discount doggies or cut price cats. They're cheap, they're fun and, what's more, they deliver themselves.
"We used to send all of our pets by Parcelforce, FedEx or one of the other major carriers," says company spokesman Harry Mange. "And quite frankly it was costing us a fortune. Then we hit upon an idea - seeing as most of these animals are perfectly capable of moving under their own steam, we thought that they may as well make their own way."
Mr Mange claims that all their puppies are capable of following basic directions and will present themselves at your front door within seven days of purchase. A snake will post itself through your letterbox and, as an added bonus, it will devour any junk mail it finds lying on your doormat. Parrots arrive by air mail.
"We've did have a bit of a problem with our cats," Mr Mange admits. "But since we agreed to pay their travel expenses they've been much more cooperative. You can rest assured that whatever pet you purchase - whether it's a goldfish, hamster or stick insect - it's guaranteed to arrive by the end of the week... Unless it's a tortoise, for which you should allow up to twenty-eight days for delivery."
We're here with Quentin Parks, director of the latest movie in the Legion of Ultramen franchise. Mr Parks has built his reputation as a thoughtful, insightful and occasionally provocative filmmaker who has done much in recent years to raise the profile of the independent sector. It has therefore come as something of a surprise that he should take on a big budget comic book adaptation. We asked him what it was that so attracted him to this latest project.
Oh wow, all those guys with the superpowers are so cool! Y'know, wouldn't it be just awesome to be able to fly, or be invisible or have like superpower x-ray vision, or something? Just think - pow!
I see, so am I right in thinking that that these concepts - the implausible, the impossible - these represent the kind of wish-fulfilment fantasies that provide a commonality between your characters; that there is, in this desperate need for escapism, a bond which unites us all?
Oh yeah, sure, 'cos who doesn't want nuclear powered supercars or a jet-copters and all that? And Xenon Man has this amazing neutron cutlass that can cut through anything, which is just so cool. And do you know what the freaky thing is? They can like totally do that now. The military, they have them and, y'know, it would be just the most amazing thing ever to have one of those things. Kind of like zap! Goes through anything: steel, concrete. Anything!
It's interesting that you talk about 'cutting through everything'. There is a theme which harks back to your very first film in which one of the characters - Lydia, I think it is - after learning the truth about her alcoholic father, talks about being able to 'slice through all her problems'. This metaphor appears several times throughout the film before she ultimately commits suicide. Of course, like many of your characters, she is never able to escape her dark past. With Legion of Ultramen, are you hoping to be able to do that once more? Is this about bringing the characters' inner turmoil out into the open?
A bit, yeah. But mostly it's about a giant radioactive space lizard that's trying to suck out the core of the Earth through a straw inserted through the North Pole. The Ultramen have to work out their own interpersonal conflicts before teaming up to fight it with lasers.
Interesting. You used a very similar idea in your 2006 movie The Conversation, in which a group of friends on a skiing holiday spend three consecutive evenings working through a number of issues and conflicts. That film had some very poignant and thought-provoking moments and took the audience on a highly charged emotional journey. Are you aiming for something like that here?
Similar, yeah, but this is more about the lasers. And there's one really amazing bit where Mouse Boy leaps over a burning tank on a motorbike, which is also on fire. And we did it for real. No CGI. An actual burning motorbike jumping over an actual burning tank. It was fucking incredible! We were like, did you see that! Did you see that shit, man! That was like, for real!
Fascinating. That's such an unusual concept. It's certainly a departure from your usual style and I think critics are going to be interested in seeing how much this new movie resembles your previous work. For instance, you've never shied away from providing difficult or incomplete resolutions and many of your films have ended with awkward moral questions that have left filmgoers feeling anxious and uncertain. Without giving anything away, does the denouement of the new Legion of Ultramen movie deliver a similar uncomfortable ambiguity?
No. The space lizard gets its butt kicked
Well, thank you for your time, Mr Parks. I'm sure we're all looking forward to seeing your new movie and I believe you've already starting work on your next project? I'm told that you will be returning to more familiar territory, with a bleak suburban drama that deals with hopelessness, addiction and a community's sense of betrayal by the outside world.
That's right, yes.
And what's it called?
Ninja Vixens IV: Attack of the Robot Vampires.
Thank you very much, Quentin Parks.
See the full list
"He coughs up something unpleasant..."
The XII Fish Olympiad
Quality beards for busy professionals
Keyreading for beginners
Roly Coconut pays a visit
The National Sandwich Hotline
"This week: Chilli Con Carne..."
"...flap... butterfly... earthquake... China..."
Last week saw the conviction of Coco Corelli, the former circus clown whose secret life as an international hitman turned him into one of the world's most notorious criminals. During a career spanning almost twenty years, Coco 'rubbed out' over two hundred victims, despatching each in his trademark comedy fashion. His favourite method was to drop a piano on them from an upstairs window, although he was not averse to improvising with banana skins or buckets of acid, cunningly disguised as custard. In 1992 he is rumoured to have despatched a high ranking member of the Indonesian government with a steel tipped revolving bow tie, and a year later he assassinated an Australian businessman with a lethal jet of burning napalm from the flower in his lapel. His final victim was fired from a cannon mounted on top of a London office block; his corpse landed in the middle of Oxford Street, without the aid of a safety net. Coco made his escape by bicycle, over a tightrope slung across to the adjacent building. Then, after floating down to street level by means of a colourfully decorated umbrella, he jumped in a waiting car to make his getaway. However, after just three hundred yards the wheels collapsed, the doors flew off and the car came to a sudden halt with a series of comedy clanks and springing noises, allowing police to swoop in and make the arrest.
"You can call me Snuggles..."
"What do you do when you find that your parrot's got jet lag..."
"One of the most controversial musicians of recent years..."
"It's always best to rest against something solid, such as a small horse..."more...
Stuffed with new material and old favourites, Recalled to Life is 280 pages of plumptiousness and very probably exactly what you need to prop up that wonky old table in the kitchen.
Find out more here.
of the Bleeding Obvious
All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2014, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All characters, companies and organisations are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.