When Milan's Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie reopens next month it will bring to an end 500 years of obscurity for a man who many art historians believe is the greatest unsung master of all time. Two years of painstaking restoration work, stripping away centuries of dirt, pollution and paint, will finally reveal the work of the legendary Renaissance craftsman Gabriello Blanco - the man who did the undercoat for The Last Supper.
"It's been a difficult and delicate business," says project director Professor Michelle Phart. "But we're really excited about finally revealing this wonderful work to the public. At long last Blanco is going to get the recognition he deserves. Obviously I wouldn't want to cast any doubt on da Vinci's genius. His twiddly bits were excellent and he hardly ever went over the lines, but he'd have been nowhere without a smooth, blemish-free surface on which to work."
Not everyone is so excited, particularly celebrated critic Brian Towel, who is characteristically dismissive about the artist. "He was competent enough, but his broad strokes often seem clumsy, and lack the imagination that characterises true genius. Now, if the restoration team had gone further and delved beneath Blanco's third rate attempts, they would have uncovered the handiwork of a genuinely talented virtuoso. I speak, of course, of Fabricci Boshaccello - a craftsman of genuine refinement, extraordinary vision and someone who, in his day, was regarded as one of the most accomplished plasterers in Europe."
In February 2013 CERN announced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) would be turned off for a period of two years to allow repairs to be carried out. Some months earlier, boffins had noticed an unusual whining sound every time they fired up the accelerator but ignored it at first, thinking that it would wear itself out. However, now that the Higgs particle has been found, the LHC is standing idle while scientists invent a new particle for it to look for, and CERN decided to use the downtime to finally get it sorted.
The man they called in was Colin Wilbert of Wilbert's Automotive Repairs in Dagenham, and he's optimistic that he will soon have it up and running. "It's probably just the fan belt," he told us. "Or possibly the wheel bearings - which could be a bit tricky, 'cos they don't make 'em for this model any more. But that's the worst-case scenario. It could be something quite simple. When I was called out by Fermilab to investigate a suspicious knocking sound in the Tevatron it turned out to be a tube of Rolos that someone had left in the glove box."
The detection of the long sought after Higgs boson is considered one of the greatest discoveries in physics, but perhaps no one was more excited than Mrs Doris Oppenheimer, head cleaner at the CERN laboratory on the French-Swiss border.
"I must say I was relieved when they finally found it," she told reporters as she extinguished a roll-up in her mop bucket. "I thought, perhaps now they can pack their particle accelerator away so that I can finally get round with the hoover."
To many within the scientific community the discovery represents the most important breakthrough in living memory, but as far as Mrs Oppenheimer is concerned it marked the end of a long period in which much of the CERN complex had been off limits to her duster.
"I never thought it would take so long when they first moved in here," she said. "I said to 'em, 'All right,' I said, 'you can leave your particle accelerator set up over the weekend, but I want it gone by Monday'. That was four years ago. I thought I'd never see that back of the blasted thing."
Of course, the discovery of the Higgs particle was just the beginning of the story, heralding years of further study to determine its properties. But Mrs Oppenheimer was having none of it. "I told 'em," she said. "I want it taken down and put back in its box. If they want to set it up and play with it again later, then fair enough, but not until I've had chance to give the place a good going over. And that's an end to it. Now come on, everybody out, I haven't got time to talk to you. Come on, the lot of you, get your muddy feet off my lino. And you, Brian. Yes, the stars are amazing, now be off with you so that I can get some work done..."
Wally Caruthers has invented the world's first disposable sausage. The 'Caruthers Mk IV Expendable Meat Tube' is more streamlined than a traditional sausage and has a friction-minimising outer shell which enables it to be easily hidden behind furniture or whisked away by specially adapted vacuum tubes. As we are unable to determine why Mr Caruthers should be so keen to get rid of sausages, we can only content ourselves with the observation that 'everyone's got to have a hobby'.
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All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2013, 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.