Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Keeping the British end up, sir.

A while back I argued that the existence of a living breathing Brontosaurus bashing its way through the Congo is unlikely, given that a Brontosaurus is a bloody great big lizard and there was no hard evidence outside of random sightings from exhausted explorers. Here then is the flipside of that argument.

Meet the tribe living in Vale do Javari, part of the Amazon rainforest located in Brazil close to the border of Peru. Or, in fact, don't meet them at all. Because until last week, no one had any idea they even existed. Thanks to satellite photography the tribe were observed in small clearings in the jungle foliage larking about and attending to their daily business (Gee Note: By 'daily business' I mean hitting things with rocks. Not keeping a close eye on the way the markets are reacting to a stronger than expected Yen). Early images suggest the tribe consists of around 200 people all living in straw huts. Which means not only are they numerous enough to leave a substantial footprint on the surrounding environment via hunting and what not, they've also managed to construct buildings on the patch of earth they inhabit. And yet had it not been for a fluke occurrence where a satellite happened to point its camera at where they were standing at precisely the right moment, the rest of the world would have been none the wiser to their existence. Which begs the question, if 200 people can remain undetected in the jungle for thousands of years then what else is hiding in them there trees? It's pretty astonishing when you think about it.

photo via mirror.co.uk

Speaking of 200 people unexpectedly turning up, the local authorities in Leicester were recently forced to admit that they were unprepared should the Umbrella Corporation set up shop there and accidentally unleash a shed load of zombies on to the streets.

No really, they actually had to confess that should the walking dead rock up in the Midlands then the public was pretty much boned. You see it's all to do with a chap named Robert Ainsley. Mr. Ainsley, obviously a man with lot of spare time, decided to lodge a formal query via the Freedom of Information Act. He wrote:

Dear Leicester City Council,

Can you please let us know what provisions you have in place in the event of a zombie invasion? Having watched several films it is clear that preparation for such an event is poor and one that councils throughout the kingdom must prepare for.

Please provide any information you may have.

Yours faithfully,

Concerned Citizen

(Gee Note: I'm not sure this logic is all that sound. I mean life isn't really like the movies. For example, you know that bit from The Spy Who Loved Me where James Bond drives a Lotus in to the ocean and it turns in to a submarine? Well that doesn't work in real life. I know, hard to believe right? I was stunned when I found this out. In fact, even the guy who owned the Lotus was pretty surprised about his car just sinking to the sea bed when I tested it. I could hear him shouting even before I'd managed to swim back to the shore).

This prompted a lady named Lynn Wyeth to appear on local radio, stating that while there wasn't a specific plan in place for Zombies (Gee Note: Oh I get it. No plan for zombies huh? And yet I bet you've got one for vampires right? And werewolves? And those Bigfoot things? But not for zombies. You know what this is? Institutionalised racism. Yeah, that's right. Y'all be all kinds of racist against my undead brothers. Where's Zombie Martin Luther King when you need him?), certain aspects from other contingency plans could be implemented effectively should people start rising from their graves with a thirst for brains. Such as "running away" for example. Or "blowing up approaching enemies with a rocket launcher".

This then made the papers in one of those 'Serious news is boooooooring. Let's have a look at funny pictures of cats wearing glasses' sections near the back, and before you could say "You know what's going to happen. Some dude is going to create a group on Facebook inviting people to dress up as zombies and descend upon Leicester", some dude created a group on Facebook inviting people to dress up as zombies and descend upon Leicester. Which is why, a week after the story broke, over 150 people were involved in a "mass shuffle" from the town clock to the council offices before heading to the pub. Where they had a thoroughly good time drinking beer and scaring the bejesus out of passing stray dogs.

photo via metro.co.uk

The thing is, this isn't the first time authorities have been surprised by something unusual landing on their doorstep.

Take, if you will, the case of Robert Taylor.

The setting is bonnie Scotland, November 9 1979. Sixty year old Bob Taylor was a forester working for the Livingston Development Corporation. At around 10 am that morning Mr. Taylor approached an area called Dechmont Law, a picturesque hill some 700 yards from the village of Dechmont. Having been charged with a day’s work of checking the progress of some recently planted saplings in the surrounding forest, Taylor parked his truck on a side road off the M8 and took his dog with him the rest of the way on foot. Walking some 500 yards away from said truck he came across a clearing in the woods. Where upon all sorts of strange stuff started to happen.

As R To The Tizzle entered the clearing he was surprised to see a large black sphere approximately six metres in diameter, hovering in front of him just above the forest floor. "Och aye" he said "There be a strange wee globe floating aboot here" (Gee Note: If of course Robert Taylor was replaced by Mr. MacTout from The Family Ness). According to Taylor...

 As I cleared the trees and entered the clearing I saw this object in front of me. It was about 30 feet high, but not as high as the trees. It was grey in colour although I got the impression that the top of the dome shape changed from grey to translucent continually. The top of the object was dome-shaped and had a flange around the middle on which were situated several antenna with objects similar to rotors on the top. There were also several round porthole type apertures on the dome shape above the flange. I do not know what the bottom of the object was like.

(Gee Note: 'Flange' is a funny word, isn't it?).

So Taylor did the sensible thing and got the f*** out of there approached the sphere cautiously, (Gee Note: OK. Here's the thing. I know different people react differently in extreme situations, and while I may run screaming like a six year old girl from a rustle in the bushes you may pull the branches back to reveal a cute little hedgehog or something. But how come in all of these tales involving stumbling across something creepy in the woods, no one ever approaches the woovy bezerk flying saucer with a big hefty branch in their hands for protection? You're in the woods for God's sake.  There's branches everywhere. Why not just pick one up and be prepared to beat whatever is in front you in to submission should you need to? You'd think these people want to get eaten/ abducted). No sooner had he taken two or three steps forward when two smaller spheres descended from the beneath the larger one and rolled along the ground towards him. The lesser balls (Gee Note: Hur hur hur. 'Balls') were covered in spikes like sea mines, and would make "plopping" noises as they trundled around.

Displaying a level of fool hardiness that would put Frank Drebin to shame (Gee Note: By the way if you're curious as to what my favourite all time Police Squad joke is, it's the one that goes 'We're sorry to bother you at such a time like this, Mrs. Twice. We would have come earlier, but your husband wasn't dead then'. Amazing) Taylor still didn't bolt out of the trees as fast as his Scottish legs could carry him. Instead he decided to stick around and watch the show. And what a show it was. These balls came ready to party! If by 'party' you mean grabbing a hold of Robby and flinging him around like a rag doll that is.

Somehow the smaller spheres attached themselves to Taylor's trousers before releasing a gas that caused the Bobster to choke. Being pulled forward and struggling to breathe, Taylor fell down and hit his head hard on the forest floor, losing consciousness in the process. When he awoke he was (Gee Note: Not in Kansas anymore?) alone, save for his dog who was standing nearby none the worse for wear. Which is good I guess. Not because of the whole passing out brain trauma thing obviously. But because nobody likes a story where a dog gets harmed. Tends to upset folks. Especially old people and sentimental drunks. Anyway Taylor struggled to his feet and tried to call for help, at which point he discovered he was unable to speak. Scrambling back to his truck he tried to use the two way radio located on board, and then realised he'd lost his voice and promptly gave up on the idea. Instead he decided to drive home but either the car was stuck or it simply failed to start, depending on who you believe. Either way that meant Taylor and his dog had to walk home. Thankfully it was only a mile away and so the poor bastard gathered his senses as best he could and trudged on.

photo via ufocon.blogspot.com

When he arrived back home at half past eleven in the morning, an hour at least after he had arrived at Dechmont Law, Taylor's wife Mary expressed concern at his state. And not in a "It's 3am! Where have you been?!? Why do you smell of beer? And where the f*** did that horse come from?!?" kind of way. More in a "Oh my God! Who look like you've been mugged!" kind of way. Still unable to speak and pretty much in a state of shock Mary couldn't get much sense out of Bob, and assumed he had been attacked by a group of ne'er-do-wells. So she phoned the police and a doctor, both of which arrived at the house in double time.

Taylor was well known in the local community, and considered to be a serious man not prone to flights of fancy. As such the police took the matter seriously and, after Taylor had regained his composure, took him back to the site where he had encountered the UFO. There they found strange markings on the ground resembling the rungs of a ladder, which Robert claimed had not been there before the event took place. Along with the ladder rungs there were many smaller indentations dotted around, but without any scorch marks or other obvious tell-tale signs that might explain them. Believing something here was certainly out of the ordinary and worth investigating the police opened up the first and so far only official British criminal investigation involving a UFO.

So did PC Plod cowboy up and go and arrest himself a little green man? Well, umm, no. Not exactly. The investigation did conclude that the tracks could not have been made by any form of construction vehicle in the local area, as they were all accounted for and none of them matched the pattern left at Dechmont Law. The police also seized Robert Taylor’s trousers (Gee Note: They can take ma troosers, but they’ll never take ma freeeeeeeddddooooommm. Geddit?!? ‘Cos Taylor is Scottish, and Mel Gibson is Australian and… I… er… have no idea where I’m going with this) for forensic testing.

But that’s pretty much as far as it went. The giant flangy sphere never appeared again. And with very little to go on the police soon hit a dead end and listed the incident as a “common assault” based on the doctors description of Robert Taylor’s superficial injuries.

So what did exactly happen on that fateful day? Well several theories have been put forward over the years. Stuart Campbell suggests that Bob witnessed a mirage of Venus which brought on an epileptic fit that caused him to hallucinate. Which is a fine theory and would explain the loss of consciousness and the physical issues Taylor had directly after the event. Problem is Robert Taylor wasn’t epileptic. And he always maintained that what he saw was below tree level, which doesn’t help out the mirage aspect of the theory a whole heck of a lot. Other hypotheses include “ball lightening” which doesn’t quite match due to the lack of scorch marks found at the scene, and that the experienced forester Taylor ate those berries your mum would always tell you to stay away from as a kid and had quite the trippy acid-esque experience.

The truth is that none of the theories put forward fit all that well. And we can’t even use the stock “What a looney!” statement. Robert Taylor wasn’t a crazy kook. He was a nice, normal man who never sought publicity or gained financially from his tale. Instead he simply saw something surprising in the woods one day and told the police about it. Even if you were to label him Jock McCrazy then you’d be ignoring perhaps to most interesting piece of evidence in this entire case. You remember Bob’s trousers right? You know, the ones that were taken away for forensic testing? Well, guess what. The forensic examination revealed there were tears in the trousers consistent with implements that had pierced the fabric and attempted to lift Taylor in an upwards fashion.

And, when you think about it, is it so difficult to believe that Robert Taylor’s story was on the level, flanges an’ all? After all if there are unknown entities rummaging around the Amazon then...

Why can’t there be one in Dechmont Law?

Friday, 10 June 2011

Dear Florence.

Hiya! My name’s Florence and I’m a psychic medium! I’m also a large semi-aquatic mammal weighing in excess of one and half tons! I’m so excited to be able to share my gift with you all once again. In fact, since my last column my inbox has gone crazy. I've had over four emails in the past month alone! One of them from the Prince of Nigeria himself! Sadly he has apparently got in to a spot of financial bother and wanted yours truly to give him a helping hand. Of course I had to reply back telling him that, as I'm a hippo, I don't actually have a bank account that he'd be able to store money in. But it was nice of him to think of me in his time of need, and that his grandmother wanted to me to tell him that his financial woes will soon pass!

Anyway I’m here to answer any questions you may have, with a little help from my (dead) friends! If you have a question, feel free mail it to me at mysticwonderhippo@gmail.com

Let’s dip in to the mailbag shall we?

Dear Florence,

My husband Peter passed away six months ago after being crushed by an unusually large turnip. His funeral was a small affair, but I was surprised to see his estranged brother Frank there paying his respects. The two had a falling out some years back about the correct way to tie shoelaces and hadn't spoken a word to each other since. Frank and I got to talking and we soon discovered that we had a lot in common (my dead husband for example).  We kept in touch and were soon meeting for drinks or dinner on a weekly basis. Then a fortnight ago Frank and I spent the night together, and since then we've been inseparable, I'm really enjoying this relationship with Frank but I'm worried about Peter. I want to make sure he approves of Frank and me dating.

Margaret, Dudley-upon-Wetbury

Dear Margaret,

When our spirits make the great voyage to the other side, the loved ones we leave behind can feel lost and confused, and may find comfort in the strangest of places. Spirits understand this and are normally content that their partners or family members have found happiness without them. Except for Peter, who is rather miffed that you’ve been letting his brother bang you like a big bass drum! Especially considering Frank suffers from their family’s hereditary hairy back problem more than anyone! In fact his is so upset he has sworn revenge on both of you and is plotting to haunt both your houses until he drives you mad. My advice would be to give Peter time to calm down by taking a long trip abroad. Maybe get Frank to take you on that holiday to Egypt you could never convince Peter to go on?

Dear Florence,

Three weeks ago my wife left me for another man. Then my dog died. The bedsit I was staying at burnt to the ground. And I blew all my remaining money on a horse that I was told was dead cert, only for it fall over six seconds in to the race and break its leg. Then they shot the horse.  Is there anything to look forward to on my horizon?

Simon, Parlington-On-Fessingstoke

Dear Simon,

Oh my! What a rough time you’ve been having! The last time I heard such a tale of woe was during the infamous mud drought of ’94. Not a fun time for us hippos let me tell you. Anyway, I have consulted my astral chart projections and found that to change your fortunes you must first change the way you look at things. Start thinking positively and positive things will happen! Instead of looking at glass as half empty, look at it as half full. Even if there’s nothing in it! Also try to learn how to relax more. A friend of mine told about an interesting plant that you can warm up and will make you feel calm and “floaty”. Apparently there’s a plentiful supply of it in the cities of Egypt, where it is sold on street corners by nice men. Maybe a trip is in order?

Dear Florence,

My pet snake Suzie recently died after a house guest mistook her for a neck tie. I was so angry I threw them out of my house and haven’t spoken to them since. Is it right to hold a grudge for what was an honest mistake? Also does Suzie have any regrets about her short amount of time here?

Dawn, Cardiff

Dear Dawn,

First off I can sense a lot of guilt in you over how Suzie carried over to the other side. Suzie wants to let you know that you shouldn’t feel guilty as she was pretty tired with life anyway! In fact only days before the accident Suzie had been eyeing up a bottle of Xanax and a case of wine as a potential way to end it all. If it wasn’t for her lack of hands preventing her from working the bottle opener properly she may very well have succeeded! As it happens it was her who decided to hang from the tie rack that day in the hope your house guest would make the mistake they did. She even starting hissing things like “I’m a tie”, and “Wouldn’t I compliment that shirt you’re wearing today?”.  She says please don’t hold a grudge against your guest as it was what she wanted all along!

Suzie says her one major regret was never completing her lifelong dream of visiting interesting countries in alphabetical order, as she only made it as far as Denmark. Maybe a nice way of remembering Suzie would be to carry her ashes to the next country on the list? One that begins with “E”, and maybe has a big river and some Pyramids. She really likes those things!

If you have a question, if no-one else can help, and if you have way too much time on your hands why not drop Florence a line? She can be reached at mysticwonderhippo@gmail.com