Friday, February 10, 2006

Civil servants' rights go down the drain

It seems that working for the civil service isn't always a bundle of laughs. Especially if you're employed by the Department of Culture in Romania.

(No, not because of a lack of culture in Romania.)

Paraschiv Usturoiu, Department of Culture boss in Vrancea county, has told his employees to use newspapers and magazines instead of toilet paper - to save money.

He seemed quite blase about the whole idea, telling 7 Plus newspaper: "I can't afford to buy toilet paper any more so I cut some local newspapers into pieces and placed them in the toilets. I'm sure they'll work just fine."

Naturally, the employees were as upset as a group of Andrex puppies who have suffocated each other in a soft and luxurious roll of toilet paper.

One woman said: "It's degrading and we can hurt ourselves or get infected from that ink they use for printing newspapers."

Good news for The Guardian. Bad news for Andrex.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cambridge and the Teacher's Union of Namibia

As we should make clear for readers just joining us, The Nibs is a truly global site, and in the short time we've been running we've covered everything from mannequins in Turkey to an unfortunate incident with a washing machine in Queensland. But if charity begins at home then so do crazy news stories, and so it's time to head back to Cambridge, England, for a couple of tall tales.

Martin Halstead, 19, is one of those annoying teenage success stories you read about from time to time, one of those annoying people with more money than... well, you. At 17 he was Europe's youngest pilot, and he now owns his own airline, Sky Commuter, which on Wednesday started twice daily flights between Cambridge and Oxford.

Tickets start from £99, which is more than the X5 bus, but then it does take 22 minutes rather than 3 and a half hours. No word yet on whether that includes a 15 minute stopover in Bedford bus station.

Meanwhile the high-profile clash between the University of Cambridge and the Teacher's Union of Namibia has further escalated, with Cambridge threatening to sue the TUN for claiming that "the Cambridge education system was thrown out of Britain, its birthplace, and was dumped on Namibia."

While the TUN has now apologised, tensions remain high, and it's surely only a matter of days before ambassadors are withdrawn and an academic task force readied.

Don't mention the war

England football fans were today warned they must be on their best behaviour if they plan to travel to Germany for this summer's World Cup.

According to Obengruppenfuhre... sorry, Police Chief Gerhard Hauptmannl, fans who goose-step or give Nazi salutes will be hauled in front of a judge within 24 hours and could spend up to 2 weeks behind bars.

Speaking in Nuremberg, which he described as a city "famous for its human rights", Herr Hauptmannl insisted "we do not live in the past". (Note: the German for captain is Hauptmann, so assuming he is a police captain, we might reasonably expect his full title to be Hauptmann Hauptmannl. If you're planning to visit Nuremberg this summer, we don't suggest you point this out).

But HH did add that "we are very sensitive about our history" and warned that if convicted of inciting racial hatred, fans could face jail sentences of up to three years.

Goose-stepping and Nazi salutes? Inciting racial hatred? In the words of Mr Fawlty: "They started it!"

"Husband eats 50-year-old chicken"

Admit it. You read the headline above and imagined a story about domestic bliss shattered when the husband eats a really old, decrepit chicken. I did. You're not alone. BBC sub-editors can be confusing like that.

But it turns out that Les Lailey, 73, from Denton in Greater Manchester, is in the news not for poultricide but, essentially, for opening a really old can.

When he and the fragrant Beryl tied the knot in 1956, they were given a hamper of food to have as a picnic. After tucking in, they were full before they could open the can of chicken, and so decided to save it for later. Sometime in the next millenium.

Points of interest about this classic local newspaper story.

1) They used to have cans of chicken. And not just cans of chicken as in 'Chicken of the Sea', but "a whole chicken in a tin". From the picture below, I'd say it was a baby.

2) Professor Eunice Taylor, a food safety expert at the University of Salford, says canned food can last almost indefinitely. That's what I assumed. But apparently, the "shelf life" is only six months. So hoarding cans of food may not be the gourmet solution when the apocalypse hits.

3) You can be an actual Professor in food safety. Presumably via a Masters in freezing or a PhD in clingfilm.

4) The picture. Yes, they're a sweet old couple, and yes, they were once fit and handsome (follow the link and scroll down to the wedding picture. And check out Beryl's sister. She's a bit of alright...) But this is realistically their last shot at international media stardom, a chance to have their story beamed around the world. Who knows, possibly a Sky News interview or Radio 2 phone in?

It's an opportunity, no doubt. But an opportunity Mr Lailey appears to be seizing in his dressing gown.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Polly's got a cracker

When you search a news website with the word 'parrot', it's surprising how many stories come up. But obviously, there is a pecking order and so we've narrowed it down to just two incredible parrot stories.

First up, we have a story from Berlin. Ananova reports that an ornithologist has set up a dating agency for single parrots.

Rita Ohnhauser's mating agency has been a fly-away success for these monogamous birds. Already, 1,300 singletons have found their partners and Ohnhauser currently has 150 parrots "getting acquainted" with other birds at her sanctuary. "In the wild parrots search out a life partner and then spend every minute of the day with them, but when they are kept as pets they are mainly alone and get very depressed," she explains.

According to Ohnhauser, parrots can either experience a coup de foudre or be very picky about who they settle down with - an avian courtship can last up to three months.

This is where the similarities with humans end. Unlike the couple below, parrots stay together for life.

Chris Taylor, a computer programmer from Leeds, did not expect to ruffle any feathers when his girlfriend Suzy Collins came to live with him and his pet parrot.

However, when Ziggy the parrot was heard repeatedly mimicking Collins' voice addressing sweet nothings to 'Gary' and smooching sounds whenever it heard 'Gary' on TV, he smelled a rat.

It turns out that Collins had been having an affair with ex-work colleague 'Gary' for four months in the parrot's presence.

After Taylor confronted her, Collins has since moved out - but Ziggy had to go too, and was found a new home through the offices of a local parrot dealer. (I very nearly wrote 'pirate dealer'...)

I wasn't sorry to see the back of Suzy after what she did, but it really broke my heart to let Ziggy go," said Taylor.

"I love him to bits and I really miss having him around, but it was torture hearing him repeat that name over and over again."

It's enough to make anyone go crackers, really.

*GirlNibsEd apologies for the lack of posting lately. She's been busy with applications and essays. An excuse she'll probably be parroting for the next few months. Sorry, she couldn't help it.