I’ve long been fascinated by the forgetfulness of human beings. There seems to be a limit to the capacity of the human brain for retaining information before some of it starts falling out of your ears. Your memory card is full, please delete some files to free up space, as it were. But it’s not just forgetting important dates like your mum’s birthday or your wedding anniversary though. As the Wombles put it so succinctly, it’s “the things that the everyday folk leave behind” that offer us an intriguing glimpse into the ways our memories work – or don’t, as the case may be.
Our brains are fallible. Quite ridiculously so at times. Losing your house keys, forgetting your phone, misplacing your glasses, the disappearance of the remote control – these are all everyday things that happen to us all at some point in our lives (although I’d bet you’ve never managed to lock yourself in your flat due to sheer stupidity. I have. The locksmith was highly amused, and I went round singing Vic and Bob’s ‘Trapped In My Flat’ for the rest of the day).
But some people forget the oddest things. Over the years I’ve posted quite a lot on the subject of the weirder side of lost property – bizarre items left on various forms of public transport or in hotel rooms by forgetful customers – and it never ceases to surprise and amaze me what kind of things people actually leave behind in public places.
Everything from wedding dresses, live tortoises, a bag of haggis. a casket of human ashes, and an inflatable dinosaur (yay!), to a gas mask, a framed photo of Mary Berry, a pair of breast implants, a stuffed puffer fish, and a hamster have been turned into various lost property offices in recent years. It really makes me wonder how such oblivious souls got some of these things on the train/bus/tube/into a hotel room in the first place, let alone forgot them!
Indeed, I still worry sometimes about the life-size Dalek someone once left abandoned in a hotel room after checking out – is the poor thing alright? Did anyone ever come back to claim it? Where did it go? Were there stairs involved? And how the hell do you forget a life-size Dalek in the first place? Such weird items of lost property leave me with so many questions (which is probably why I keep returning to the subject!).
There’s nothing I like more on a hot and boring Tuesday morning than a good old-fashioned random ‘news’ story. And, in that context, my long-time readers will know that I particularly like hearing about weird lost property (like the full-size replica Dalek left behind in a hotel room a few years ago. One hopes it didn’t exterminate the cleaning staff). Honestly, this stuff is fascinating. Keep with me here, you’ll like this.
Train company First TransPennine Express has this week released a list of things that have been handed in to its lost property department. Alongside the usual phones, wallets, umbrellas, sets of keys and pairs of specs, there are some distinctly strange items that people have left on trains. Here are a few:
1 bag of haggis
1 6ft inflatable dinosaur
1 framed photo of Mary Berry
1 Barry Manilow CD
1 bottle of champagne
1 wooden casket (of ashes)
Personally, I think these items speak volumes about the general oddness of the British psyche. I’m still puzzling over the picture of Mary Berry. She may be a baking legend, a national treasure and a bit of a fashion icon, but why would anyone want a framed photo of her (outside of her family, obviously)? And who loses a bottle of champagne? I’d be very careful to get that home in one piece so I could drink it. I mean, really. Then there’s the six foot inflatable dinosaur. Did it need its own ticket?
I have my suspicions about the Barry Manilow CD though. If that traveller was anything like me, they left that appalling object on the train deliberately….
It’s that time of the year again – the Diagram Prize is back. For readers unfamiliar with my slight obsession over this rather strange literary award, it is an annual prize given, rather wonderfully, to the book with the oddest title of the year. It began in 1978 when Trevor Bounford and Bruce Robertson of The Diagram Group were bored at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and has run ever since (apart from 1987 and 1991, when odd book titles were sadly thin on the ground).
Now administered by The Bookseller, previous seriously odd winners have included Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice (1978), Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop (2012) and the utterly fabulous Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (2003) (I still want to know if that’s a big book of horse stories for lesbians, or a big book of stories about lesbian horses). Can this year’s shortlist better those?
Here are this year’s odd contenders:
Divorcing a Real Witch: For Pagans and the People That Used to Love Them by Diana Rajchel
Nature’s Nether Regions by Menno Schilthuizen
The Ugly Wife is Treasured at Home by Melissa Margaret Schneider
Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte
Where do Camels Belong? by Ken Thompson
Advanced Pavement Research: Selected, Peer Reviewed Papers from the 3rd International Conference on Concrete Pavements Design, Construction, and Rehabilitation, December 2-3, 2013, Shanghai, China edited by Bo Tian
The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones by Sandra Tsing-Loh
To find out more about each of these very odd titles, visit We Love This Book.
If you’d like to take part and vote for your favourite, you can make your choice here.
You’ve got until 00:01 on Saturday 21st March to decide which of these titles is the oddest of them all – the winner will be announced on Friday 27th March. I’ll update you with details of the winning entry as soon as I can!
UPDATE 31/03/15: And the winner is… Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte. Not the title I expected to win, but there you go! Lots more info here.
I’ve written before about the incredibly strange and random things people have been known to leave behind on the London Underground, on planes and in hotel rooms (it still amazes me that someone once checked out of a hotel and drove away without remembering they’d left a full size replica Dalek in their room (no, really). And, incidentally, how do you get a full size replica Dalek in your car anyway?).
Since 1934, items left behind on London’s buses, the tube and in taxis have been taken to the Transport for London Lost Property Office on Baker Street, an Aladdin’s cave of everything from abandoned umbrellas to forgotten mobile phones and beyond. But alongside the everyday things we all occasionally misplace, there’s also some very weird and wonderful things that have been sitting in the TfL Lost Property Office, just waiting to be reunited with their owners…
- A giant red-nosed reindeer stuffed toy
- A pair of size 17 trainers, belonging to a basketball player
- A stuffed puffer fish
- A gas mask
- A mannequin head used by trainee hairdressers to practice on
- A school crossing guard’s ‘lollipop’
- A gorilla costume, wearing an Hawaiian shirt
- An assortment of African carvings
- A life-sized stuffed Spiderman
- A pair of breast implants
- A wedding dress
Luckily, about a quarter of the lost property items found on the London transport network will be returned to their owners – but I suspect the giant red-nosed reindeer has metaphorically missed the boat (or possibly sleigh) this year…
Back in May of last year, I posted on the subject of strange words for unusual concepts. That provoked a lot of interesting responses from you all, so I (perhaps a little belatedly!) decided it was time to dig out a few more weird and wonderful words to define for you. Some of these lexicographical oddities may be more familiar than others, but they all refer to strangely familiar ideas and experiences you might be surprised to know there is even a word for!
Well, I’ll be @*&%ed, so that’s what a grawlix is! And indeed, that sentence contains an excellent example of exactly what a grawlix is – the use of a string of random punctuation marks to indicate swearing, more usually seen in comic book speech bubbles. Created as what was, quite frankly, a bit of a private joke by the American cartoonist Mort Walker in the 1960s, the use of the word grawlix to indicate such a concept has come to take on a validity and a life of its own. By the early 1980s, Walker had written The Lexicon of Comicana, which defined both grawlix and a number of other rather excellent words for common comic book concepts including squeans (the squiggles round a character’s head indicating drunkenness or dizziness), solrads (lines indicating the brightness of the sun or a light) and briffits (the cloud of dust left behind when a character dashes away at speed). Walker’s book is still in print and has become a key text for anyone studying the art of the cartoonist.
I’ve written before about the weird things that people leave behind in places like the Tube network and in hotels (as well as the bizarre items people pinch from said hotels!), so naturally I couldn’t resist when I came across this list of strange things found on planes by cabin crew from around the world. I wonder if any of these items were ever reclaimed by their owners?
A bag of sand
Box of dried fish
Bag of diamonds
Bag of onions
One egg (without packaging)
Written marriage proposal
I’m aware how exhausting air travel can be, and I’m pretty sure that some of these items of lost property are probably explained by excitable passengers attempting to join the Mile High Club, but one wonders just how forgetful you would have to be to to leave something like a double bass on a plane? Or a bag of diamonds. Or your wedding dress. Or even a live falcon – although I guess I should be grateful I’m not having to discuss snakes on a plane…
Earlier this month, I posted about my latest music list – this time, I’ve been counting down my Top 50 albums of the 1990s. If you’d like to discover more about my choices (and check out some other great lists), you can visit the dedicated Top Fifty Nineties Album blog where you’ll find my reviews for each album and some great videos too. In the meantime, as promised, here’s a quick rundown of my now-completed list all the way from fifty to one…
50) Cornershop – When I Was Born For The 7th Time (1997)
49) Lo-Fidelity Allstars – How To Operate With A Blown Mind (1998)
48) Sabres Of Paradise – Haunted Dancehall (1994)
47) The Lemonheads – It’s A Shame About Ray (1992)
46) Primal Scream – Vanishing Point (1997)
45) The Chemical Brothers – Brothers Gonna Work It Out (1998)
44) Cypress Hill – Black Sunday (1993)
43) The Prodigy Presents: The Dirtchamber Sessions Vol. 1 (1999)
42) UNKLE – Psyence Fiction (1998)
41) Tricky – Maxinquaye (1995)
Yes, the music lists are back! Only this time I’m doing it all slightly differently…
As the title suggests, this new list is of my Top 50 albums of the 1990s (if you are a music fan you’ll know that this was a brilliant era for great albums!). I was in my teens and early 20s during the 1990s, and it was a formative period for my taste in music – a lot of the choices on this list have a very deep emotional resonance for me, and I decided I wanted to write about that. So, instead of inflicting fifty geeky music essays on you, I set up a dedicated blog for this challenge, and it is that I have been working on over the last few weeks.
When the whole list is completed, I’ll be posting a rundown of the full Top 50 on Another Kind Of Mind (of course), but in the meantime you can catch up with all my selections so far on the new blog here.
And if you’d like to see even more Top 50’s of the 1990s (and a few links to the results of previous music list challenges) as compiled by some of the lovely people on Twitter, you can find them here.
I’ve had some fantastic feedback on my list choices and the new blog already (there’s still 20 albums to go!), and I’d love to hear what you have to say. Feel free to head on over to the blog and leave a comment, or check the list as it goes out on Twitter (hashtag #CB90sTop50) – I look forward to hearing from you!
Broaden your vocabulary with Another Kind Of Mind! I’m fascinated by words and where they come from – and the English language is full of some seriously weird examples of words describing and defining some incredibly random concepts you probably never knew existed. Researching this subject out of curiosity, I came across quite a few of these words which I had to share with you all.
So, every once in a while I’ll be defining a couple of these words for you – and here’s today’s…
A desire path (or desire line) is the name given to a concept you would never think actually had a name. You’ve probably seen plenty of desire paths in your own neighbourhood – they’re those shortcut tracks across grassy areas made by walkers and cyclists repeatedly cutting through from one place to another (you can see plenty of examples in this fascinating post over at the excellent Spitalfields Life).
More than ten years ago I began compiling a list of what can only be described as sportspeople with ridiculous names, after I discovered the existence of the gloriously-monikered footballer Jermaine McSporran (strangely enough, he’s not Scottish…). The list lay dormant for quite some time until my recent discovery of another footballer with a quite astonishingly ridiculous name – the Brazilian lower-league striker Creedence Clearwater Couto (see below for more on this chap).
Posting this discovery on Twitter led to a flood of quite brilliantly silly new names (and a few old favourites) from many of my followers – leaving me clinging to my desk, breathless with laughter, for the whole of one evening last month. God knows what the neighbours must have thought! As a result of all this social media fun and games, a number of people asked me to put together a complete list in one place (it ended up being two places: Part Two to follow!) – so here it is…
Goodies and baddies:
“Eden Hazard is a cracking name,” correctly observes a Twitter correspondent, “Would make an excellent high-school superhero”. I concur (despite Hazard’s recent run-in with a ballboy), and would also suggest that the Chelsea and Belgium winger teams up in a superhero partnership with the ex-Swindon Town, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone player Danny Invincibile.