The things I find at work


It’s funny what you come across as part of the working day. I found this the other day. 

According to a survey carried out by TNS Omnibus on behalf of charity partnership Toilet Twinning for World Toilet Day (I bet you didn’t know there was one), the smallest room in the house is a hive of activity. In addition to the obvious, people tend to do three different things while they’re on the loo. 

A quarter of us (8.9 million) take our phones in with us – to chat, text, email or update Facebook and Twitter. I confess to checking Facebook and posting the odd toilet tweet. 

Toilet going is seemingly a social experience as 5.5 million people (14 per cent) confess to chatting on the loo. Women are apparently more likely to chat in person – because when they’re out they ususally go to the loo in groups, while men tend to chat on the phone – because they don’t. 

It also seems we’re partial to toilet playtime too. One in ten (3.6 million) of us reach for a personal games console, crossword or Sudoku. 

But reading is the nation’s top toilet habit – with 12 million people (32 per cent) reaching for a newspaper, book or magazine. I for one enjoy a good read in the bog because it’s the only place in the house that I can get any peace and quiet. 

Toilet Twinning’s survey was commissioned with a serious message in mind. One in three people worldwide lack a clean and safe toilet to use. Toilet Twinning is a partnership between development charities Tearfund and Cord to improve access to decent sanitation, clean water and prevent the spread of disease in some of the world’s poorest communities.

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Hammer Queen Ingrid Pitt dies


Countess Dracula
Image via Wikipedia

Hammer House of Horror Queen Ingrid Pitt has died suddenly.

I can’t help feeling a sense of loss at the news in spite of the fact that I have never met her. Part of my adolescence has gone with her. You see, Ingrid Pitt, along with other Hammer regulars like Britt Ekland, Stephanie Beacham, Kate O’Mara, Martine Beswick and Veronica Carlson, was fuel for the teenage fantasies of many boys growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s – mine included.

She appeared in 1970s Hammer classics like The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula and The Wicker Man and the erotically charged scenes were pretty steamy for late night TV.

The Hammer films of those decades were pretty tame by modern standards – despite being given X certification by the Board of Film Censors – but they were and are great fun and much more entertaining than the modern torture porn movies like The Saw franchise. I’d much rather watch Christopher Lee camping it up as Dracula – pursuing some nubile virgin with a heaving bosom through a wood in the Home Counties (sorry, Transylvania) – than I would some unknown Hollywood ‘D’ lister chewing off their own leg to get out of some sadistic trap only to have their head blow up.

Ingrid Pitt, RIP.

Read all about it – war is hell


Cover of "Matterhorn: A Novel of the Viet...
Cover of Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

I’ve just picked up a relatively new novel on the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes. Matterhorn already looks like a classic and I’m only six pages into it. And it’s quite a tome – running to nearly 600 pages – reportedly taking Marlantes 30 years to pen.

He describes war in authentic and minute detail. The time Marlantes has taken on this epic has ensured he has crafted a truly accurate depiction of the horrors, futility and sometimes boredom of war and what it must be like to endure combat. After all,  a graduate of Yale University and Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes did serve  as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valour, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals.

No doubt Matterhorn will be adapted in to a film to rival Apocalypse Now, which was based on Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness.

There have been other novels about the Vietnam war, including Go Tell it to the Spartans (Daniel Ford) and Meditations in Green (Stephen Wright) but none seem to have achieved the status of true classic, which I’m sure Marlantes’ book will.

Even in the opening few pages the reader gets a good indication of what Bravo Company has to deal with to stay alive. Marlantes sets his themes out early. It’s not simply the enemy, or the suggestion that it is present that engenders fear. There is the natural world around them, the monsoon rain, the mud, the jungle and the leeches – not just on the body but in it. One Marine gets a leech stuck in his penis.

Marlantes’ protagonist, 19 year-old 2nd Lieutenant Waino Mellas,  is also contending with fear, boredom, routine drudgery and racial tension amongst his men. All this is common to fighting men throughout the major conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries from WWI to the current conflict in Afghanistan.

HCA responds to residents’ concerns


Signpost in Castor, Cambridgeshire
Image via Wikipedia

Following earlier revelations on the Homes and Communities Agency‘s (HCA) intentions for the land it holds around the villages of Castor and Ailsworth in Cambridgeshire it has responded to a query from the Parish with a typically oblique reply:

At the present time, the HCA does not have detailed proposals for this site as the site is not allocated for
development in any existing adopted planning policy for Peterborough, nor is it included in any emergent planning policy currently being considered.  Should the site be required at some point in the future to provide for Peterborough’s growth, the HCA will look to plan the site in a comprehensive
manner, working with local partners.

There is still nothing to stop it selling off its holdings around the village envelope (between the village and the by-pass) to developers – like Clay Lane.  And, since the government’s decision to scrap regional spatial planning has been ruled unlawful, it seems that housing quotas are again back on the agenda.