Friday, 29 June 2012


Animal testing is completely unnecessary – animals understandably get very nervous and upset when they don’t know the answers...

Psychic animals and soccer tournaments – what on earth is all that about?

You don’t need to be a psychic of any kind to predict that the England football team would make a limp exit from Euro 2012 at the quarter final stage in a penalty shoot-out. Some things are never going to change. But what’s with all this psychic animals predict this and that mullarkey? A whole panoply of animal oracles have been predicting results for Euro 2012. Leading the pack is an octopus, called Paulus, who was born in Germany but now resides in a Portuguese aquarium in Porto. Hang on – haven’t we been there before? More later. 

A couple of elephants, a ferret, a pig and a llama are among the host of animals that have also been credited with psychic powers during this tournament. They include Citta the elephant in Krakow Zoo who picked Poland to triumph over Greece in the opening game by choosing a mango placed above a Polish flag (the game ended 1 – 1).

Fred the ferret in Kharkiv, Ukraine is among the line-up of ‘psychic’ animals aiming to predict the Euro 2012 winners. Dutch elephant Nelly forecasted a win for Germany over Portugal when she took aim with a football (correct - the Germans won 1 – 0).

 In the UK, Nicholas the llama had previously predicted Chelsea would win the Champions League.

Of course, I blame myself for all this psychic animal predicting nonsense. In another life I blogged about Paul the Octopus who was said to have psychic powers after predicting all of Germany's six World Cup games in 2010 correctly and tipped Spain to win the final in Johannesburg.

¡Hurra! Paul el pulpo predice triunfo Español!

Paul made his name during the tournament by successfully choosing a mussel from one of two boxes bearing the flags of competing nations. He picked a winner when he ate his dinner!
The two-year-old cephalopod Paul was based at the Sea Life Aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen and decided that Spain would win the final by going for the mussel in the box with a Spanish flag rather than the one with a Dutch flag on it – Holland was the other finalist.

Now I’m worried that the person who thought “Hey, lets’ ask the octopus?” is thinking of something else! If Paul the psychic octopus had put money on all the games he'd successfully predicted in 2010, he'd have been squids in...
At one stage it seemed that the glare of publicity had got to Paul the Octopus. Too much pressure heaped on him. Octopi are very sensitive creatures as we know. The sign outside his tank at the SeaLife Aquarium in Oberhausen one morning read – “Geschlossen! Auf Grund unvorhergesehener Umstände” – “Closed! Due to unforeseen circumstances!”. Not a particularly good endorsement for a psychic.

Paul the Octopus had become the unlikely star of the 2010 World Cup and in all 'predicted' the outcome of eight matches – but shortly after the tournament he died at his aquarium in Germany. Staff at the Sea Life centre in Oberhausen were said be "devastated" when they learned that he had passed away overnight. Octopi rarely live beyond two years so his death was not unexpected. But heartbreaking nevertheless.

Amid the euphoria surrounding his predictive talent, he was even made an honorary citizen of the Spanish town of O Carallinio before becoming an ambassador for England's failed 2018 World Cup bid.

Eventually a memorial for Paul the Octopus was unveiled three months after the sad death of everyone’s favourite cephalopodan chum. A memorial corner – called Paul’s Corner – was unveiled at the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen in western Germany, Paul’s former home.

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Monday, 25 June 2012


Since the days when houses had bricked-up window spaces (ready to be glazed at a later date) to avoid payment of the Window Tax introduced in 1696 or to a time when being clean-shaven would be the obvious means to avoid the Beard Tax (from 1535) - tax avoidance is the perfectly legal, but arguably immoral utilization of a tax regime to one's own advantage. That is to reduce the amount of tax payable by means that are within the law – which is why we have accountants after all! It’s been going on for years - and if people were prepared to live in the dark to avoid a tax burden which they viewed as daylight robbery – why the furore now in 2012?      

PM David Cameron’s recent attack on comedian (really?) Jimmy Carr on the way he manages his tax affairs is not without irony – given the fall-out from the MP’s expenses fiasco – where there was seen to be all sorts of dodgy goings-on – some of which resulted in our seemingly unassailable parliamentary representatives receiving custodial sentences; guilty of tax evasion amongst other things. 

Though the Prime Minister attacked Jimmy Carr for investing in a legitimate tax avoidance scheme, businessman George Robinson and Don’t Take That frontman Gary Barlow, both Tory donors, are also said to have been involved in similar schemes and neither has come in for a similar rebuke from the Prime Minister. Remember this is a man that is not averse to leaving his 8 year-old progeny to fend for herself in a public house (Social Services a-beckoning?) and handed over £650m of our money to fund Pakistani schools – whilst removing the budget of the school refurbishment programme in the UK. This was a gift to heal the diplomatic row caused by his comments concerning Pakistan's handling of the terrorist threat.

Jimmy Carr has announced his withdrawal from his particular legitimate tax avoidance scheme and may no longer be laughing all the way to the bank – which is just as well as it’s a steady step to the Channel Islands! Surely he can’t be about to abandon his moral turpitude for the sake of the UK Exchequer?

Who on Earth likes paying tax, anyway?

Q: Could it be magic, Gary?

A: No mate, it’s an offshore bank account!

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Friday, 22 June 2012


As you know this blog from time to time embarks on certain campaigns; such as the Union Flag and Fylde Borough Council stand-off at the Naze Lane Chippy (BLOG #71 - and of course the sacking of Tracy Chandler and Donny Dog by Doncaster Rovers FC – a disaster in public relations (BLOG #52 -

Injustices and pettiness combined.

Nicola Sylvester
 - showing the Olympic spirit in Redcar

Well more coastal pier verbiage I’m afraid – because last month I was approached by the good people of the Redcar Pier Association to promote their efforts in securing a traditional pier for the popular seaside resort through this blog. The Association is a newly-formed, all volunteer, apolitical group with the simple remit that a traditional pier (i.e. one that goes out to sea and not one that involves all-out alpinism), alongside the other investments already in place for the town would not only add greater value as an attraction to visitors and residents alike, it would compliment planned improvements by bringing more tourists and trade and demonstrate a new belief and vision for Redcar. Bang on!

The RPA envisages a people’s pier with money raised by local people and additionally sourced through grant schemes, company sponsorships etc.

As a region Teesside is justifiably proud and renowned for its expertise in modern steel production, offshore fabrication and engineering skills – the recent de-mothballing of the blast furnace at the Redcar Steel plant is testimony to that.

So the Association is in favour of a traditional pier made from locally-sourced materials by the sounds of it. The RPA strives for registered charitable status; that objective requires an income of £5000 a year which it hopes to achieve through its membership scheme.

Now contrast this with the vertical pier nearing completion in the town. The Middlesbrough Evening Gazette recently revealed that Redcar and Cleveland local authority bosses secretly acknowledged the name Vertical Pier was unpopular with residents - and admitted locals would rather have a traditional structure. The MEG obtained a restricted document detailing how Redcar and Cleveland Council planned to address the negative reaction to the controversial £1.6m tower’s name.

The briefing note - sent to Labour council leader George Dunning and cabinet member for economic development Mark Hannon - five months before work began states: “Local people have expressed concerns about the building being named a pier when it is not a functioning pier.” But they elected to sanction its construction anyway!

How could those responsible for Redcar’s redevelopment get it so wrong? In 2001 Southwold reopened its pier, in traditional style, from virtually nothing and this was after many years of being without a pier, much the same as Redcar. It is now a firm tourist attraction favourite.

As you know – dear readers – the Vertical Pier has been included in two previous blogs, neither of which has exactly served as any kind of endorsement to the project:-

BLOG #73 - and

BLOG #23 -

The 2012 Olympic Torch Relay visited Redcar earlier this week to glorious sunshine and a warm welcome. The partly-constructed Vertical Pier was there of course as part of the backdrop – fireworks and all. In truth though it was a bit underwhelming - just some smoke from a building site...


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Friday, 1 June 2012


It is understood that the UK pays 20% of the production costs towards the Eurovision Song Contest - a televisual feast typified by some bizarre performances, outrageous costumes and blatant voting alliances; in front of an annual audience of up to 120m people. Since 2000, the UK, Germany, France and Spain have automatically qualified for the contest final, regardless of their positions in the previous years contest. They were later joined by Italy and earned this special status by being the five biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) - without which the production of the Eurovision Song Contest would not be possible.

The rules requiring countries to sing in their own national language have changed several times over the years. Some years you must sing in your native tongue, other years you can sing in any given language (the language of preference being English).

So consider this year's UK entrant - 76 year-old crooner Englebert Humperdinck - singing in his first language - he never really stood a chance in this year's contest in Baku, Azerbaijan - did he?

Voting alliances? Oh yes, let's not deny they don't exist; this is one of the humorous mainstays of the Eurovision Song Contest every year. Or at least it used to be until you consider the UK is paying 20% for the p*ss-take! Do the Scandinavians really like each other's songs so much or can't they bear to be without each other? Is it pure coincidence certain countries' (Greece and Cyprus, Romania and Moldova etc.) insist on giving 12 points to the country closest to them every year, even if the song may be truly awful?

Where does/did this leave the UK and The Hump? Second to last place and 12 points in this year's contest - since you ask! It is rumoured that the UK contestant for next year may well be Sir Cliff Richard...

Surely things can't be that bad!

Interesting fact - the US country singer Tammy Wynette (1942-1998) who had a worldwide hit with "Stand By Your Man" in the late 60's - was in fact married five times.

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