Thursday, 9 August 2018

The case of the gormless giant garden gnome grappler


'The case of the gormless giant garden gnome grappler' is a book title that Agatha Christie probably would have rejected on the grounds that it just featured too much alliteration, or contained a crime that was too unbelievable.

But this is no work of fiction, it's a very real case, and local in fact.

If you missed this story originally, a couple from Weekley Glebe Road in Kettering had their two-foot tall garden ornament stolen, but the hapless thief was pictured on CCTV, manhandling the oversize gnome before careering headfirst through a fence, like he was auditioning for You've Been Framed.

Sadly, the gnome was later found smashed to pieces, whether as a deliberate act of trying to conceal evidence or just another example of the miscreant being unable to stay upright whilst carrying such a large item of decorative garden fixture, who knows?

The footage has been seen by millions worldwide after it went viral on social media, and was even featured on news sites around the globe.

I have to say, I preferred it when Kettering was known for Wicksteed Park and being the home town of comedian James Acaster and the band Temples, but at least there is now a footnote to this story with a happier ending, as reported in the Northants Telegraph.

Northamptonshire Police officers very kindly bought the elderly couple two replacement giant gnomes, which they did in their spare time lest anyone churlishly accuse them of misuse of police time.

What a lovely gesture, and one that the couple are said to be 'chuffed' with.  It goes part way to restoring your faith in human nature, doesn't it?

The garden gnome grappler is still at large however, but let's hope he has learned his lesson and leaves these and any other outsize neighbourhood ornaments, well enough alone.

It may have been a joke gone wrong, or a drunken prank, but these incidents can be very unsettling for those to whom they happen. 

An apology would be good, gnome grappler!

Friday, 3 August 2018

The hottest, or driest, summer since 1976?


It's official, apparently - it's the hottest, or the driest, summer since 1976.

As I saw somebody say on Twitter, anyone reminiscing fondly about the summer of '76 didn't have a car with vinyl seats.

As somebody who did, I can confirm that peeling yourself off them on a hot summer's day whilst wearing shorts or a sundress was an extremely unpleasant and painful experience!

The hot weather has an unfortunate side effect though - apart from the horrendous thunder storms which knocked out my broadband for five days at the time of writing.

I was woken in the night by the storm which broke the run of extremely hot, dry weather, and took myself off to the bathroom - the inevitable result of being woken in the night when middle-aged - only to have the room illuminated while I was in situ.  My main thought was 'please don't let me be struck by lightning when on the loo!', as that's not a sight I'd want the emergency services to face.

But I digress, no the side effect to which I'm thinking is the seemingly compulsory revealing of as much flesh as possible.

Really, what people do in their own homes or gardens is completely up to them, but when supermarkets feel the need to impose a dress code - i.e. no nakedness please near the fruit and veg - I do have to ask where's common sense these days?

Nobody, I repeat and emphasise, that nobody wants a hairy armpit thrust in their face when they're selecting their veg!

Seriously guys - and it is usually guys, as I've yet to see a topless woman in the supermarket - please pop a t-shirt on when nipping into the shops, if not for decency's sake then for hygiene reasons.

If needs be, channel the vibe of 1976 and think to yourself that you don't want to be burning your back on the car seats on your return, vinyl or no vinyl!

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Bank customers are being short-changed


I was sorry to read that Barclays Bank in Thrapston is set to close.  It's always sad to hear that the last bank in a community is to go.

Naively, I thought that the major banks had come to some sort of 'gentlemen's agreement' about not shutting the last bank branch in a town, but it appears that's not the case - at least not here in Northamptonshire.

The same lines are always trotted out by the spokesperson too about the branches not being used as much, the growth in online and mobile banking etc.

But this is forgetting that some people don't do online and mobile banking - some because they don't trust it (that's me), some because they have really poor mobile and internet connections (me sometimes), and some because they prefer to deal with actual human beings (definitely me).

What about small businesses needing change for their tills and to bank their takings?

What about the elderly who like to pop in and pay their bills, get out what cash they need and exchange pleasantries with the cashiers?

Banks seem to be forgetting that we are their customers and they should be there to serve us and our communities - we entrust them with our money, and expect to be able to easily visit a branch and see them when we need to.

Let's not forget that when the Visa system crashed so spectacularly the other week, all those reliant on cards alone were stuck, unable to pay for goods and services.

When the TSB computer system left people unable to access their accounts, wouldn't it have been good if their customers could have headed into a branch and sorted out their problems instead of spending huge chunks of their lives on the phone being repeatedly cut off?

The banks need to remember that not everybody is a young, tech-savvy urban dweller with the latest smartphone and no cash in their pockets - and indeed it's very insulting that's what the major banks seem to think makes up the bulk of their customer profile these days!

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Let yourself GROW


I could imagine hearing it on the radio.  Me, on Chris Evans' Breakfast Show, on the segment where the kids usually ring in to say what they've done for the first time, but during the summer holidays it's adults, presumably because anyone under the age of 18 is still fast asleep.

'Next on the line we have Helen, from Northamptonshire.  Hello Helen, what did you do for the first time?'

'Well Chris, on the first weekend of the summer holidays my family and I went to the inaugural Grow Festival in Corby - and performed with one of the acts.'

'Wow, that sounds exciting!  Tell us more.'

'It was the Maritime Show, featuring a pair of pirates.  It took place outside the Paletto Lounge and Corby Radio.  First up my daughter had to confirm that the eggs being used for a juggling act were real, by shaking one, listening to it and then cracking it open on my head - she, quite wisely, refused the last part.

'I then had my mind read in an amazing feat of telepathy using cards - the pirate quite rightly said that I wasn't thinking of the ace of hearts.

'But my husband had a starring role.

'He was selected from the crowd because he was tall, bronzed and looked like a Greek god from the island of Domestos, or so the pirates said.  This made me laugh heartily, perhaps a little too heartily in husband's eyes.

'He then had to become the glamorous assistant who held a seven feet high unicycle steady while the pirate climbed aboard, using husband as a human ladder.  After this he had to throw three cutlasses at the pirate, who then proceeded to juggle them from his unicycle.  Husband received a well-deserved round of applause for his gallant efforts.'

'That sounds great Helen - mark the experience out of 10.'

'Ooh, definitely a 10 Chris!'

Not what you usually expect to see in Corby town centre on a Sunday morning, but a thoroughly enjoyable and well organized event - thank you to all involved.  We're looking forward to next year's already!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

I'm a little bit in love with Gareth Southgate...


I'm a little bit in love with Gareth Southgate,
It's hard to explain, but here goes...
I love his natty ties, and his waistcoats,
And his long, noble, crookedy nose.

I'm a little bit in love with Gareth Southgate,
And in truth with some of his team.
I love Kane, Dele Alli and Trippier,
Maguire and his 'put the bins out' meme.

I'm a little bit in love with Gareth Southgate,
He seems like a nice, decent bloke.
He trained a team we could all be proud of,
Which doesn't happen often to us English folk.

So I'm a little bit in love, Mr Southgate,
Could I have one of your big, warm hugs?
Can you come and help us sort out Brexit,
I'll make the tea, builders' strength, in mugs.

We need more people like (Sir) Gareth Southgate,
Who can make England unite once again.
Football may not have come home this time,
But in another four years, who knows then?

I'm a little bit in love with Gareth Southgate,
This much I know to be true.
He made me care about English footie again,
So can I just say a big 'thank you!'

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Northamptonshire's woes by Helena Handcart


I sometimes think I should write this column under the byline of Helena Handcart.

Despite being repeatedly informed that the UK is the sixth richest country in the world, it sure doesn't feel like it if you're a resident of Northamptonshire.

Without wishing to sound like a broken record, every week we hear of another council service that's being reduced.

At the time of writing, the latest item on the seemingly endless list of cutbacks is road gritting.

Admittedly, while I'm sitting here at my computer in 80 degree heat 'glowing' unpleasantly - there's an image for you all, apologies if you're eating! - road gritting for winter seems like a long way off.

But cast your minds back to just March this year and the snow drifts that were nearly double the height of my little Fiat 500.

I rejoiced when the gritter went past my window on a nightly basis, knowing that this meant we hadn't yet been completely cut off.

If the council want people to be able to leave their homes to go to school and work, then gritting the roads is a necessity, it's as simple as that.

We've already lost vital bus services - the children from Gretton that attend Corby Business Academy, who relied on the service bus to take them to and from school, have a temporary bus in place until the end of this term but haven't been told what's going to happen after that. 

As the county council has a statutory duty to ensure they get to school, I can but hope that plans are in place for them - it would be good if they let the parents know this though.

Also, I have been asked to tell you that the Future Northants information and questionnaire about the proposals for the local government changes in the county are available in hard copy format from council offices, libraries, leisure centres etc for those unable to access it online.

Please take the time to complete this and let those in charge know how we feel about what's happening to our beloved Northamptonshire.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Football's coming home?


It's happened to me again - I've gone from being ambivalent at best about the World Cup to being an avid viewer. 

If you recall, this also occurred with the Olympics, both summer and winter, and other sporting events to which I claim to not have an interest.  It's making me think that perhaps I do care more about sport than I would like to admit?

Anyway, having said that, I only watch the England matches in full, and then dip in and out of other games depending on what else is on the television, but as this is something I've taken to doing entirely voluntarily, it's a bit of a turnaround.

You see, the problem is I vividly remember Euro 96.  I knew the words to Three Lions, and my friends and I used to sing it loudly - maybe in tune, who knows? - and for a moment in time we truly believed that football was indeed coming home as promised.

Then it didn't, and it hasn't since 1966 - which I don't remember before anybody cheekily suggests that I do!

But now we've started to dream again.  Watching the Panama game on a very sunny Sunday afternoon, we started to believe that maybe, just maybe, it's going to be our year.

The players are younger and seem hungrier for victory.  They're not mentally-scarred by the penalty shoot-outs that we never seem to win.  They actually look and act like they could be winners.

But whoa there, I should try to rein in my enthusiasm at this point.  This is what we always do.  We all start hoping, then put too much pressure on the players' shoulders, and that's when it starts to fall apart.

We've got quite a way to go yet, let's not get ahead of ourselves and dare to dream.

But with Harry Kane's penalty taking skills (as demonstrated against Panama), who knows, perhaps Gareth Southgate's got a team that can win actually win a penalty shoot-out.

I'm not sure my nerves - and Gareth's, let alone the rest of the nation's - will stand it though!