Oddities

  • Avian neighbours

    Your ‘umble scribe is spending a few days beyond the confines of HM Open Prison United Kingdom staying with family in the Campo de Gibraltar. It’s his first time in the country for a few decades and a good chance to brush up on rusty spoken Spanish, as well as get some much-needed sun after a long, wet English winter.

    Being out in the countryside, your correspondent has been amazed by the local birdlife, which features species that are never or rarely seen back home.

    Firstly, let’s introduce the biggest of the local avian species, the Eurasian Griffon Vulture. These are described by my trusty half a century old Collins bird book as having a flight outline like a “tea tray in the sky“, stand as high as 1.22 metres high and have a wingspan up to 2.8 metres.

    They are spotted throughout the day on the crags behind the house, as well as riding the thermals in large flocks.

    Three vultures sunning themselves on a rock
    Three vultures perched on crags. Very easy photographic subjects at rest, but testing the phone camera’s technical limits.

    It’s rather difficult to get a decent photo of them on a phone, so here’s a close-up from elsewhere.

    Griffon vulture in flight
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    The other 2 very impressive local birds are more colourful but slightly smaller: the golden oriole and the European bee-eater respectively.

    Golden oriole in a fig tree
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    Orioles are truly spectacular, flitting across the valley in a flash of gold and black. Although they do migrate to Britain, their distribution is rather limited, whilst your ‘umble scribe had four sightings in a couple of hours one afternoon.

    Where the oriole impresses with its two-tone plumage, the bea-eater has colourful plumage reminiscent of a member of a 1970s psychedelic rock band.

    Bee-eater on a bare branch
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    These birds are not regular migrants to Britain, but have bred on several occasions in recent years, according to the RSPB. Down in southern Spain, it can sound as if there’s one in just about every shrub at times!

  • The importance of proofreading

    Within minutes of each other, two occurrences reminded your ‘umble scribe of the importance of proofreading, i.e. the process of finding and correcting mistakes in text before it is printed out or posted online.

    If nothing else, it proves the person or company involves knows what it’s doing and writing, providing evidence of professional competence

    The first was spotted on a change machine in Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport in the early hours of this morning.

    Sticker on machine stating this machine accepts new £20 note. On the image of the note is the printed word SPECIMAN.
    SPECIMAN? What’s one of those?

    According to Wikipedia, a specimen – not SPECIMAN – banknote is printed generally in very limited quantities for distribution to central banks to aid in the recognition of banknotes from a country other than their own. Furthermore, To avoid use of specimen banknotes as legal tender notes, the banknotes are deformed, typically by being overprinted and/or punched (perfin) with an inscription such as “SPECIMEN”, “SPECIMEN NO VALUE”, “CANCELLED” or the equivalent in one or more other languages.

    The second turned up a couple of minutes later on your correspondent’s social media feed.

    Ingredients list for a roast beef and criminalized red onion relish roll
    Should those with a poor grasp of English be gaoled?

    A reverse image search reveals that the original image first emerged on social media some 4 years ago and originated in the United States. Note that the snack is accurately defined as having caramelized onion relish its long description. Y’all have a good misspelt sandwich now! 😀

  • Asda vs Asbo

    British supermarket chain Asda is well known for the lime green livery of its grocery delivery vans, as per the photograph below.

    Asda delivery van and driver
    Photo credit: Asda

    However, there is now a serious rival to Asda’s dominance of the lime green delivery van sector. The vehicle below was spotted last week outside the Chelsea Inn at the junction of Chelsea Road and Bloy Street in Bristol’s Easton area.

    Asbo van outside the Chelsea

    Both Asda and Asbo are acronyms, i.e. abbreviations formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. Asda is a truncated version of the first part of its original name of Associated Dairies and Farm Stores , whilst Asbo denotes an Anti-Social Behaviour Order, a past form of sanction for naughty boys and girls which has now been replaced by two penalties – the Community Protection Order (CPO) and the Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO).

    Note that the Asbo van is parked on the footway (which some refer to as the pavement (posts passim). Ed.); how apposite! 😀

  • Greggs – EN-US written here

    Greggs logoIn recent days, pastry products purveyor Greggs suffered an IT outage that left shops unable to process certain types of payment, the BBC reported yesterday. The company has over 2,000 branches and employs 21,500 persons.

    Some shops were forced to close and posted notices saying they were closed for the day or could only accept certain payment types. Fans of hot pastry-based snacks took to social media, with some labelling it as bordering on a national emergency. One of the more interesting signs from an unidentified branch of Greggs is shown below.

    Notice reads Due to a system outage, we are CARD ONLY temporarily and our staff cant do math

    Yes, you did read that correctly: “Due to a system outage, we are CARD ONLY temporarily and our staff cant do math“.

    A system outage is not the only woe to beset this particular branch of Greggs. First of all, there’s a punctuation thief about, unless the staff cant is hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature from employees. Secondly, what is this math? Mathematics, the knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes, is abbreviated differently by speakers of British and American English; the former with maths, the latter with math, as in the well-known US phrase, (you) do the math.

    Fears of the creeping Americanisation of British English have been doing the rounds for about a century already, but are becoming more prevalent due to the pervasiveness of US culture and a general lack of awareness of the distinctions between the two dialects. For instance, your ‘umble scribe would call something that ran his laptop a program, whilst something broadcast on the radio or TV would be a programme: some folk – quite possibly younger – would use program without distinction for both.

  • Bristol’s Roman Road

    There’s a Roman road that runs across Durdham Down in the Clifton area of Bristol.

    However, it’s not the one near the top of Blackboy Hill with the modern name plate and the posh BS9 postcode. That ‘Roman’ road is an imposter, albeit a short but straight one.

    There is a real Roman road that crosses Durdham Down, but it’s much harder to spot on the ground since it consists of just the agger, the raised bank upon which the road was laid and its two accompanying side ditches. Your ‘umble scribe actually had to lie on the ground to spot it, as the lumps and bumps on the ground can be measured in mere centimetres. The sharp-eyed may be able to discern the differences between the agger and side ditches in the photograph below.

    Agger and ditches of Roman Road on Durdham Down

    It’s somewhat easier to spot on a Lidar scan of the area. It can be seen in the 2 faint parallel lines depicting the ditches on either side of the agger, which are enclosed by the red ellipse in the photo below.

    Plot of Roman road across Durdham Down on Lidar scan enclosed by red ellipse

    This section of Roman highway is a scheduled monument. Its official listing reads as follows.

    The monument includes part of the Roman road which originally ran from Bath to Sea Mills, situated on a wide plateau known as Durdham Down. The road survives as a length of flat-topped bank measuring approximately 100m long, 10m wide and 0.6m high with a visible although largely buried ditch on the south side.

    The Sea Mills mentioned above is a modern-ish suburb of Bristol. It was, however, also home to the Romans who established a settlement called Portus Abonae there. From Portus Abonae, travellers on the road would have had to take to water to continue their onward

    In between the surviving section on the Downs and Portus Abonae, part of the original Roman road’s alignment is still in use today, its course being followed by the current Mariner’s Drive/Mariner’s Lane.

    Mariner's Drive/Lane following line of Roman Road

    The map below shows how this Roman Road, known as the Via Julia, fitted into the general system of roads in Rome’s province of Britannia.

    Major Roman roads in Britannia
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • Food and language

    Along with water, food is one of the essentials of life.

    Another of life’s essentials is language; it’s vital for communication and communal living in a social species such as ourselves.

    One of the elements of language is the adage, generally defined as something which people often say and which expresses a general truth about some aspect of life.

    In English one well-known adage is there’s many a true word spoken in jest, a propos of which the screenshot below turned up today in my social media feed.

    Conversation reads - Is British food really that bad? If made correctly; yes.

  • Distracted boyfriend: fascist edition

    According to Wikipedia, “Distracted boyfriend is an Internet meme based on a 2015 stock photograph by Spanish photographer Antonio Guillem. Social media users started using the image as a meme at the start of 2017, and it went viral in August 2017 as a way to depict different forms of disloyalty. The meme has inspired various spin-offs and received critical acclaim.”

    Copyright on original: Antonio Guillem.
    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    The latest depiction of such portrayal has taken more than one step to the right, depicting as it does Kremlin crook Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as the object of distraction, Adolf Hitler as the long-suffering girlfriend and one Donald John Trump, unauthorised keeper of classified documents, convicted business fraudster, convicted sexual predator, suspected Capitol insurrectionist in chief and disgraced forty-fifth president of the United States of America.

    Donald Trump, holding hands with Adolf Hitler, distracted by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
    Phwoar!
  • Commemorative Carcassonne culinary cock-up

    Aerial view of medieval CarcassonneThe French city of Carcassonne in the département of Aude is best known – and rightly so – for its medieval citadel, which actually has a history dating back to the Gallo-Roman period and is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

    However, in recent days Carcassonne has become equally well known – in the Francophone world at least – for the poor quality of the local council’s spelling and its subsequent mockery on social media and in the mainstream print and broadcast media, as Midi Libre reports.

    Like any French town or city, some of Carcassonne’s street names commemorate prominent local and/or national figures.

    Pierre Curie. Image courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsOne of those luminaries so honoured in Carcassonne is the physicist Pierre Curie (1859-1906) In 1903, Pierre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics along with his wife, Marie Skłodowska–Curie and another French scientist, Henri Becquerel, the man who discovered radioactity, all of them being jointly honoured in that year for their contributions to science and knowledge.

    As stated by Midi Libre, the cause for the outbreak of mainstream media and social media mockery, not to mention the presence of red faces at the local mairie, can be summarised in one single sentence.

    Cette semaine, deux panneaux ont été installés sur l’avenue Pierre Curie, dans la cité audoise, sauf que le célèbre physicien a été rebaptisé… “Pierre Curry” et a donc été orthographié comme la célèbre épice indienne.

    Which is rendered in English as the following:

    This week, two road signs were installed on Avenue Pierre Curie, in the city in Aude, except that the famous physicist was renamed… “Pierre Curry” and was thus spelled like the famous Indian spice.

    Street sign for Avenue Pierre Curry

    The erroneous signs were quickly removed yesterday (Saturday). The council has stated that signs with the correct spelling will be installed from this coming Monday.

    The mockery on social media took two forms: firstly, the culinary (it is not known whether Pierre and Marie invented the radioactive tandoori. Ed.), whilst Jo Zefka provides a typical post mocking the council’s poor orthographical skills.

    Screenshot of tweet by Joe Zefka

    Zefka asks:

    “Avenue Pierre Curry, physicien”.
    Demain, la “rue Arthur Rambo, poète” ?

    English version:

    “Avenue Pierre Curie, physicist”.
    Tomorrow, “rue Arthur Rambo, poet”?

    Your ‘umble scribe is pleased to note the speed with which Carcassonne town hall will be replacing the error-laden road signs. Here in the fair city and county of Bristol, the council – which is not known for its alacrity (except when pursuing council tax arrears .Ed.) – took all of four years to replace an erroneous road sign reading Morton Road (instead of Morton Street) in Lawrence Hill, perhaps because it lacked to comic cock-up quality of its Carcassonnais counterpart.

  • Situations vacant: woodland builders

    Reach plc local titles are an excellent source of exclusives, mainly due to the poor quality English of some of their employees.

    Today’s Bristol Live/Post has one such exclusive, which also doubles up a secret classified for for very specialist workers in the construction trade, namely woodland builders, as per the screenshot below.

    Biggest woodland in a generation to be built near Bristol

    Your ‘umble scribe is glad to see that the generation of greenery has been modernised. Building woodland sounds much more contemporary and organised than just letting the shrubbery sprout naturally. It will also ensure more employment for those in the construction trade, which is always the first to suffer and the last to recover in any economic downturn. 😀

  • And now, a message about the prime minister…

    As seen yesterday on the fringes of Bristol’s Broadmead shopping ‘quarter’.

    Sticker reading Rishi Sunak is a pussy hole.

    As it bears no imprint, your correspondent doubts this is official party political campaign material.

    However, it is on a par with former Scottish First Minister Nicola Surgeon’s assessment of one of Sunak’s predecessors in the post, namely disgraced former party-time prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

    Further less than complementary appraisals of senior Tory politicians, including one comparing lettuce shelf-life prime minister Mary Elizabeth Truss to a marzipan sex toy, were subsequently revealed to be spurious.

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