Monday, December 04, 2006

It ain't all tragic: weird, wild and wonderful events of 2006

Agence France Presse
Sun Dec 3, 2006

A selection of zany events from the year just ending:

- In a new twist on the influx of Polish workers to Britain, an ad appeared in newspapers serving Muslim communities in the east European nation asking for Polish halal butchers to work in Britain.

- An 82-year-old Australian cartoonist who was expert at doing high-speed sketches of sports participants was able to do a quick drawing of a man who robbed his home. Police used it to arrest the burglar.

- The authorities in a Czech town on the border with Austria ordered an Austrian hotel to trim its roof, which was protruding a few centimetres (inches) across the boundary.

- Ziggy Stardust, an indiscreet parrot in England, blew the cover on its mistress's love affair by repeating her amorous exchanges in front of her companion. The latter, named Chris, realised something was up when the bird started squawking "Gary, I love you."

- A woman's handbag containing jewellery and cash worth some 110,000 US dollars was returned intact to its owner in Melbourne, Australia, after she absent-mindedly left it hanging on a shopping trolley. The extremely honest finder wished to remain anonymous.

- Police thought they were onto a terrible crime when a woman's skeleton turned up in the sea off western France with a gash in the skull. Carbon dating later revealed that it was in fact over 500 years old.

- A pair of 17th-century cannon left outside a workshop where they were being restored on the Greek island of Crete narrowly escaped being melted down when a firm of scrap merchants hauled them off by mistake.

- A Frenchman who had braved lawsuits to deep freeze his dead parents' bodies gave up when his freezer system broke down. He had hoped to one day bring them back to life thanks to medical progress.

- Drivers venturing to use their satellite navigation system in an English village called Crackpot found themselves being erroneously directed to the top of a steep cliff.

- A talentless street musician in the Dutch town of Leiden got local people so upset by his awful saxophone playing that they got police to confiscate his instrument.

- New Yorkers were gripped by the story of a cat called Molly which got stuck between the double walls of an old building in Greenwich Village. It took 40 firefighters and two weeks of work to get her out, safe and sound.

- Drinkers had to be evacuated from a Welsh pub when somebody realised that a tubular object that the landlord's wife had long used as a rolling-pin was in fact a World War II shell.

- Policewomen in the Netherlands were furious when they were issued with new uniforms including blouses which turned out to be transparent.

- A British taxi driver who showed up at BBC headquarters in London to pick up a fare was mistaken for a computer expert, and bustled into a studio and given a microphone to be interviewed.

- A Christian missionary group in the United States toured pornography conventions to hand out literature affirming that "Jesus loves porn stars."

- Vietnamese police broke up a network that was helping students to cheat in exams via mobile phones hidden under long wigs.

- A canny Canadian internet user showed the potential of online trading systems by gradually bartering a paperclip into a three-bedroomed house. The clip was first exchanged for a wooden pen, which was traded for a ceramic doorknob, and the process continued right up to the house.

- In a real-life version of a scene from countless cartoons, a 45-year-old woman fell over a precipice in the French Alps but was caught on a tree root which snagged her foot. She was rescued, shocked but unhurt, two and a half hours later.

- Small fish rained down on a village in southern India. A scientist said they were probably picked up by a waterspout or mini-tornado out at sea.

- The US fast food giant McDonald's agreed to change the shape of the cups used for one of its desserts after English animal lovers complained that hedgehogs -- a threatened species -- were getting their snouts stuck in them and dying.

- A 68-year-old man in northern Nigeria told reporters that after having married a total of 201 women in 48 years, he had resolved to make do with the four wives he still had. His main complaint: older wives had an unfortunate tendency to turn the younger ones against him.

- To greet the annual Nobel Prizes, tongue-in-cheek scientists in the United States handed out their own "Ignobel" awards. They included rewards for boffins who had researched into why woodpeckers don't get headaches from all that tapping, and whether dung beetles really enjoy their diet of faeces.

- Kazakhstan reacted first with irritation then with resigned humour to a filmed spoof by the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. The jokes in the film, "Borat", in fact turned out to be mostly at the expense of Americans, who nevertheless lapped it up at the box-office.

- In the real-world Kazakhstan, meanwhile, national mint officials were red-faced when it emerged that they had mis-spelled the word "bank" on their newly issued notes.

- The Marine Corps in the United States said it had finally decided to accept a gift of 4,000 Jesus dolls which recited the scriptures, and were destined to be given to needy children for Christmas. The group which had donated them had complained vocally when officials tried to refuse the gift.

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