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17 April 2014

Food Banking

In recent years the UK has seen a shocking rise in the use of food banks by people who simply don't have the means to feed themselves. Although food bank use continues to rise at a time when welfare budgets are being slashed, the government maintains that there is no link. We spoke to David Chumbly, MP for Waitrose, in the hope that he might shed some light on the government's position.

UBO: Mr Chumbly, many thanks for coming in today. A leading food bank has just announced a 51% rise in the number of clients. That's quite startling news, isn't it?

Chumbly: It certainly is, but I think it's a clear demonstration that government policy appears to be working. In the face of considerable criticism we have maintained that our austerity measures are the way forward, and I'm pleased that this announcement has now borne that out.

UBO: You think that food bank growth is a good thing?

Chumbly: All growth is good, as long as it isn't allowed to get out of hand. We want to avoid the boom and bust economies of old. But in this case we have an industry that didn't really exist when we came to power, and yet under this government it has grown steadily, in a sustainable way, to the point where it is now a significant sector of the UK economy. Well done to everyone concerned, that's what I say.

UBO: Mr Chumbly, I don't think you fully understand what a food bank actually is. If you had ever had call to use one -

Chumbly: Oh, I have.

UBO: You have?

Chumbly: Certainly I have. I deposited a tin of peas in my local branch several years ago, and in that time I have seen my investment grow to three tins of carrots and a bag of sprouts.

UBO: That's outrageous!

Chumbly: I know, it is rather impressive, isn't it? Of course, it's taxable and I have had to declare it on the Register of Members' Interests. Nevertheless, it's not to be sneered at and that is why there has been such interest from overseas. Britain is now the number one destination for foreign investors who are looking for a good return on a spare packet of soup or a box a cereal. However, I do understand your concerns.

UBO: You do? Well, I'm glad to hear it.

Chumbly: Yes of course. The issue of food bankers' bonuses is a contentious one. Certainly, on one hand you have to recognise that huge payouts are damaging the reputation of the industry, but then if the sector is to retain talent it has to be suitably rewarded. There is a fine line between regulating and stifling the market. Take the PPI scandal, for instance.


Chumbly: Parsnip Protection Insurance. Now the previous government got that badly wrong and now food banks have had to set aside whole greenhouses just to meet the demands for compensation. You see?

UBO: Yes... No, not really. Mr Chumbly, are you sure we're talking about the same thing? We're discussing the shameful rise in the need for food banks. One of your colleagues recently stated that this increase was due to extra food banks being opened. But surely that is nonsense? Your government can't honestly believe that more food banks leads to greater demand?

Chumbly: Well, this thinking is consistent with government policy.

UBO: But isn't that getting the laws of supply and demand the wrong way round? It's like saying that opening more factories increases the demand for a product. Or that forcing more people onto the labour market increases the number of jobs.

Chumbly: Yes, well, as I say - this thinking is entirely consistent with government policy.

UBO: Mr Chumbly, thank you for your time.

Chumbly: A pleasure. The invoice is in the post.

16 April 2014


The envelope on which composer John Cage scribbled the first draft of one of his most famous works has been withdrawn from auction following doubts about its authenticity. The envelope - manila, measuring approximately six inches by nine and entirely blank - was believed to have contained the original outline for 4'33", Cage's notorious silent composition. But experts have now expressed concern after being unable to confirm that the lack of handwriting belongs to the late tunesmith.

This marks the second controversy to mark the auction house in the last few weeks. Only last month the sale of a sheet of blank A4 paper had to be halted after authorities failed to confirm that it was the original cover design for The Beatles' 'White Album'.

15 April 2014

An Apprehension of Rabbits

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of the fourteenth century monk St Thomas Aplenty, originator of over six hundred collective nouns. If you have ever used phrases such as 'a pride of lions', 'a gaggle of geese' or 'a packet of crisps', then you have much to thank St Thomas for. Most of this venerable linguistic pioneer's work has, sadly, fallen out of use, meaning that today we rarely hear expressions such as 'a briefcase of parrots', 'a disappointment of anglers' or 'a load of cobblers'.

It's equally lamentable that St Thomas's contribution to the English language was not recognised within his own lifetime. In fact, he led a somewhat wretched existence which was tragically cut short at the age of thirty-three when, during a stroll through the grounds of the monastery, he was startled by a bucket of ravens, pursued by an invoice of frogs and ultimately torn to pieces by an apprehension of rabbits.

14 April 2014

Space Dust

Anyone who grew up in the seventies will be familiar with Pop Rocks, or Space Dust as it was alternatively called in some markets - a sugary candy which pops and crackles when consumed and was sold in several colours, flavours and volumes. Urban legend had it that if you ate three packets in quick succession then held your mouth and nose shut, your eyes would pop out. This, of course, is nonsense, as any schoolboy worth his salt would tell you after thoroughly testing the theory behind the science block, on the fat kid from 4b.

What isn't generally known is that the confectionary was first developed by Dr Allen Stropp, a rocket scientist working at NASA, who proposed it as an alternative fuel source. In initial tests it proved to be remarkably potent but, since it could only be activated by saliva, each launch required someone to go around licking rocket motors. Most people felt that this was just a little too weird.

Dr Stropp subsequently left NASA in a huff and nothing is known about his current whereabouts, although stories that he flew to Venus on a sherbet fountain have since been mostly discredited.

11 April 2014

Stealth Fishing

New European Union regulations come into force next month, limiting the use of stealth technology in the fishing industry. Stealth techniques have increasingly been employed to confuse haddock over the last few years, transplanting traditional fishing methods and leading to a drastic reduction of fish stocks.

However, critics of the ban claim that it will be impossible to police, as the very nature of stealth technology means that transgressions will remain undetected. The only feasible solution, they say, is to arm fish with a series of counter measures, such as trout sonar or heat-seeking pilchards.


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