C R I M E FIGHTERS
C O L L E C T O R S
DRUIDS M A R S
S N A I L
M A N
C A N N O N B A L L S
W O R L D R E C O R D S I N S E C T S B
Anthony Cuthbertson, Editor @ADCuthbertson
Tomas Jivanda, Picture Editor @T_Jiv
Toby Youell, News Editor @tobyyouell
Contri butors. Tooba Masood, Culture Editor @tabahitooba
Ellie Slee, Design Editor @EllieSlee
Cover illustration: Nick Dwyer All enquiries to email@example.com http://theeccentrist.wordpress.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheEccentrist Twitter: @theeccentrist ÂŠ The Eccentrist 2013 6
Emma Craig, Chief Subeditor @emmahollyc
With special thanks to our illustrators: James Carver - jamescarvergrenside.com Nick Dwyer - nickdwyerillustrations.com Jenny Callan - twitter.com/jennycallan Rose Cleary - rosecleary.com Katie Slee - firstname.lastname@example.org
ec·cen·trist /ik-'sen-trist, εk-/ n. A person who appreciates unconventional, offbeat and eccentric ideas or behaviour. (from Greek ekkentros, from ex out of + kentron centre)
he philosopher John Stuart Mill once lamented: “That so few people now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time.” The year was 1859, and although the word had not yet been coined, Mr Mill was an ‘eccentrist’. He believed that the amount of eccentricity in a society was proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage it contained. Within these next hundred pages or so, you’ll find people who challenge the mainstream - people who looked at the status quo and thought “nah”. It is a showcase of the wonderful fringes of the human condition. We’ve met people who live out their childhood dreams of being a superhero or
a Druid, people who’ve made their own countries, and people who run down hills to chase cheese. Some people we’ve met have got bored of life on Earth altogether and have decided to start again on Mars. As Eccentrists we love them and we hope you’ll love them too.
THE ECCENTRISTS June 2013 In memory of Fay Cuthbertson, a fellow eccentrist who helped us with this creation.
9-13 NEWS National and International 16 FEATURES A Matter of Principality How evading a firearm offence turned into a geopolitical incident 25 FEATURES Marooned on Mars What drives people to permanently leave this planet? 30 FEATURES The Unthinkable How to solve the timeless problem of having too much money 35 FEATURES Heroes are all around us On patrol with the caped crusaders of Dover 46 FEATURES A Day in the Life... What gets record breaker Lee Redmond up in the morning?
51 FEATURES No Place Like These Homes How to rebel against the white picket fence 56 FEATURES This is How We Druid King Arthur on his latest quest at the Royal Court of Justice 64 CULTURE Is that Art? What is Margaret Thatcher doing in a public loo in Luton? 67 CULTURE Snacks With Bite Add a dash of excitement to your mid-afternoon snack 69 CULTURE Bones Under the Hammer How a lock of Elvis’s hair caused someone to lose $90,000 73 CULTURE Puss in Shoots Why is the yoga community in disarray?
74 CULTURE Summer Fashion Just why is bubble wrap so damn popular? 76 CULTURE Apocalypse Game Show Dawn of the Dead on a boat on the Thames 78 CULTURE See me Rollin’ What cheesy reason caused a Spaniard to break his leg? 82 CULTURE Upcoming Events Why vampires steer clear of the Isle of Wight in midAugust. 84 CAREERS Someone’s got to do it Do you want to help keep planes in the sky? 87 HEALTH Dr Bongo The physical benefits being a punk
88 AGONY AUNT Dear Geraldine Advice from the heights of fame and mega-stardom
Find Fabio! Fabio Lanzoni, Mills and Boon heartthrob and The Eccentrist’s pin-up of choice, is hiding somewhere in this issue. Find him, and be transported to a beautiful place when you look into his eyes. 9
N E W S Off the beaten news cycle by Toby Youell and Emma Craig
Image: Bob Kerr
Norwich: The Final Frontier
Storms thwart survivalist
Chartered surveyor and adventurer Nick Hancock has abandoned his attempt to survive on Rockall for 60 days, due to poor weather conditions. He had been planning to live on the remote rock in the Atlantic — 230 miles away from the Outer Hebrides — throughout June and July, but was forced to abandon the effort because the sea was too rough for him to land. He travelled to the lonely outpost by chartered ship at the end of May, which then circled for several hours before deciding it was too dangerous to berth. He tweeted his disappointment to followers that evening. Hancock had been hoping to raise money for military charity Help for Heroes by smashing two previous endurance records for living on the outcrop. The most successful attempt so far was a pair of Greenpeace activists who stayed on the island for 42 days in 1997. They installed a solar powered beacon which was washed away in a storm two years later.
The speed your food will be delivered to your table by a flying gadget in a London branch of Yo! Sushi
The top speed of a lavatory built by Stamford plumber Colin Furze. Powered by a 140cc engine, Furze claims the vehicle is the world’s fastest loo
The duration of a flight between Perth and Kuala Lumpur. Sir Richard Branson dressed in drag and worked as a stewardess on the flight after losing a bet with rival tycoon Tony Fernandes
Daleks v Stormtroopers may sound like a B-movie that never got made, but an inter sci-fi dispute in Norwich this May got so serious the police had to be called in. The altercation broke out at a Norwich Star Wars Club convention after the treasurer of a rival group, the Norwich Sci-Fi Club, was refused entry. A bitter exchange took place in front of the event at the University of East Anglia between members of the groups, several of whom were in fancy dress. Sci-Fi treasurer Jim Poole had tried to enter in order to get an autograph from the Doctor Who actor Graham Cole, but was intercepted by the convention’s organiser, Richard Walker. The hosts had apparently already warned the Sci-Fi club
to stay away via comments on their Facebook page. University security had to be called, who in turn contacted the police to prevent a fight from breaking out. Police described the incident as “very minor”, adding that the two groups were “advised to stay away from each other”. Journalists at the Norwich Evening News reported that there is a long history of rivalry between the two groups. However, the latest incident has galvanised the fans to resolve their differences. Aside from the disagreement, the convention was a great success with over a thousand people attending. Walker vowed to continue his good work. He told a local paper that “We will be back next year with an even bigger and better fair.”
The weight of a sack of coal carried by contestants at the World Coal Carrying Championship in West Yorkshire
Diameter of the world’s smallest type of apple, which went on sale at Marks & Spencer in June
Let down in love A man in north Mexico had his love life punctured by police after he was caught having sex with his unusual girlfriend at a cinema in the city of Guadalupe. Staff called the police when workers caught Omar Cano, 24, copulating with a sex doll on the back row. The cinema’s manager was angered by the event: “It is not unheard of that a couple will go to the cinema for a bit of privacy, but in this case he didn’t even buy a second ticket — he had his girlfriend hidden under his jacket and only blew her up when he got inside.”
The number of times a photo of a man bragging about his multiple affairs was shared on Facebook
Skirts to work
Image: Facebook/ Martin Akersten
House number now banned in the Richmond Hill district of Toronto, due to the area’s high proportion of Chinese residents and the number 4 rhyming with ‘death’ in Cantonese
Male train drivers in Sweden have taken to wearing skirts to work in protest of a company uniform policy that forbids shorts. Arriva employees working on the Roslagsbanan line near Stockholm reacted to dress regulations issued last autumn which stated that drivers could only wear trousers or skirts. “It can be over 35°C in the train cab on hot summer days,” driver Martin Akersten told Swedish newspaper Mitti. “Of course people stare at you a little when you are on the platform [wearing a skirt], but you just have to put up with it,” he said. Arriva were forced to accept the decision of their drivers to cross-dress, as objecting would breach gender discrimination laws. A spokesman for the company said: “Our thinking is that one should look decent and proper when representing Arriva and the present uniforms do that. If the man only wants to wear a skirt then that is OK.” A change of uniform policy is expected to appear on the agenda at the next company meeting in September.
Height of world’s highest base jump. The jump, performed by Valery Rozov from Russia, was off the summit of Mount Everest to mark the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the mountain
Amount a German bank employee accidentallly transferred from a pensioner’s account while momentarily falling asleep on the keyboard
Age of the world’s oldest base jumper, Dorothy Custer, who jumped off a bridge in Idaho in June. She described the trip as “too short... it was all right”
Back in Taiyuan, one familyâ€™s refusal to move their relativesâ€™ gravestones led to an impromptu high rise graveyard. Developers wanted to build an apartment block on the cemetery but one set of grave owners refused to move their dearly departed. Construction began on the site anyway, leaving the remaining graves stranded high up in the air as foundations were dug around them. The graves were eventually exhumed from the 10m high cemetery in December 2012 following an agreement with village officials.
A neglected car has failed to divert Chinaâ€™s rampant economic growth. It was left in a car park which was due to be demolished in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan. Construction workers say they waited for the VW to be claimed but after 10 days they lost patience and worked around the vehicle. It is the latest in a series of stand-offs between state development and lone individuals. The most well known is probably that of Luo Baogen, whose house in Wenlin, east China, was encircled by a highway after his family refused the 220,000 yuan compensation package they were offered to move out. Baogen had just built the hosue at a cost of 600,000 yuan but eventually left the house in December 2012 after accepting a compensation package of 260,000 yuan. A village official suggested that he decided to move because his house was now in the middle of the road. Another property had a similar problem in the city of Taizhou. In this case, the homeowner agreed to sell the house to make way for the road, but then changed his mind. He is still there.
Carry me home!
Four year old Robert Tufts has proved that age need not be a barrier to a political career in Minnesota. The toddler has been elected mayor of Dorset, a small town of 22 people that claims to be the restaurant capital of the world. Each year, the town chooses its mayor by pulling a name out of a hat at its “Taste of Dorset” festival. The electoral system works exactly like a raffle where candidates names can be submitted as many times as they like, but each submission costs one dollar. Mayoral candidates need no qualifications and can be of any age and residency. The town’s website strictly stipulates that “votes received without the dollar will be void”. Tufts’ campaign manager and mother, Emma Tufts, spread their campaign poster around the village and secured enough submissions for his name to be pulled out of the hat. Mayor Robert “Bobbie” Tufts lists fishing as one of his hobbies and confidently claims that leeches and worms are the best baits. Reportedly, he is a better fisherman than his dad. He has also settled on only having one girlfriend, Sophia. Most decisions in the town are made by the local business community so the mayoral post is largely ceremonial.
Image: Forum News Service
Four-year-old governs town
His duties include helping residents cross the road, and the new mayor also takes it upon himself to brighten the residents’ day by singing and dancing. Tufts’ mother told ABC that he takes his duties seriously. “Mostly it’s just going to daycare and schmoozing with the girls, but he did the Governor’s Fishing Opener, and he loves meeting and greeting people at the restaurants. He greets everyone.” Kathy Schmidt, whose family has lived in the area for four generations, has high hopes for the new mayor. She told local reporters that “he’s amazing. He’s just completely amazing. He’s right in your face and well-spoken. You can’t imagine what a ball of fire he is”. When Australian morning television show Sunrise tried to interview Tufts earlier this year, he ignored their questions and broke into song instead.
Estimated value of 4ft long spliff confiscated by police at a 4/20 rally in Santa Cruz, California
Number of letters in the longest word in the German language, before changes to EU meat legislation in June made it obsolete
Annual number of users of the Prague metro. The company that manages the network have announced plans to introduce a ‘singles only’ carriage for busy Czechs looking for convenient speed dating
Pay rise offered by US Real Estate brokerage, Rapid Realty, to staff who tattoo their logo onto visible parts of their body
Position two Indonesian High School students came in the country’s Science Project Olympiad; they had created an air freshener from cocunut water and cow manure
Height an NYPD officer found himself stuck up a tree after rescuing a cat in Queens. He was helped down by the Fire Department. Witness Jeff Yu described the scene as “kind of comical”
Meanwhile, in Japan... Microhardback
Man in the Mask
Japanese designers have invented a ‘beauty skin sag face stretcher’ which promises to make your face look more energetic and youthful. Called the Facewaver and available only in pink, its designers claim it is like “doing exercise on your face. It stretches and tightens the face and cheeks, kneading out wrinkles, lines and sag.” The mask is made from nylon and polyurethane, and supposedly stretches the muscles in different directions as the wearer makes facial expressions. In theory, the product increases blood circulation. It is suggested that consumers use it for five minutes a day. “It doubles as a great Halloween costume,” states Japan Trend Shop, who sell the product for £40.
He promises to improve social welfare and reform the education system but there is one thing Skull Reaper A-ji won’t do: take his mask off. The Tokyo City councillor campaigned in a red and black Mexican wrestling mask and gained 2,828 votes. However, other members of the assembly have demanded he take his mask off, saying that it is inappropriate. Skull Reaper A-ji refuses to remove the headwear, telling the Nikkan Sports newspaper: “If I take my mask off, I’m an entirely different person. I will not take it off.” At least two other local councillors in Japan have previously been elected while sporting a mask, including one professional wrestler.
Image: Skull reaper-Aji
A book publishing company has made what they claim is the smallest book ever produced. The illustrated guide to flowers is only 0.75mm long and contains an impressive 22 pages - though unfortunately it is impossible to read with the naked eye. The publishers, Toppan Printing, have applied to the Guiness Book of Records for the smallest printed book. The record is currently held by a 30 page publication of Chameleon by Chekhov, which was created by Siberian craftsman Anatoliy Kenenko in 1996 and stretches to a tiny 0.9mm. Shiki no Kusabana (Flowers of Seasons) uses letters that are 0.01 mm wide to minimise the size of the book. It is available to buy for 30,000 yen (£200) and, thankfully, comes with a magnifying glass.
A MATTER OF PRINCIPALITY Written by Toby Youell Illustrated by James Carver
e mare libertas
rusting pile of concrete and steel about six miles off the Essex coast, the Principality of Sealand sits as a testament to the power of pluck. Over the last 70 years it has been, consecutively, a sea fort, pirate radio station, birthday present, unrecognised independent state, battlefield, de facto recognised independent state, offshore datastore, and, briefly, a skatepark. Now it sits, unused, at sea. It is run by a ruling dynasty, the Bates family, who currently reside in their royal bungalow in Leigh-On-Sea. They are not short of ideas of what to do with their watery domain. The current sovereign, Prince Michael, a laddish 60-year-old would-be military man who’s spent most of his life sleeping with a pistol under his pillow, wants to turn it into a drug rehabilitation centre – the Alcatraz of detox. His son and heir apparent Liam, 24, is keen on relaunching HavenCo Limited, an IT start-up that collapsed at the end of the dotcom boom. Some would say the ideas are far-fetched, but if there is one thing the Bateses excel at, it is implementing wacky ideas. HM Fort Roughs became the Principality of Sealand when Michael’s father Roy, described by screenwriter Sean Sorensen as “probably the most interesting man who has ever lived”, needed a place to
host his pirate radio station. The year was 1966, commercial radio stations were prohibited, the Cuban missile crisis was fresh in collective memory and the UK’s judicial limits extended three miles beyond its shores. Roy Bates, at the age of 45, ‘invaded’ the deserted naval platform and was prepared to defend it by force if necessary. A micronation was born. When a Royal Navy ship passed by not long after – in Roy’s eyes too close to his newly acquired property – he fired a warning shot and was shortly summoned before a judge in Chelmsford for firearms offences. His lawyer submitted that the UK had no right to do so as the offence occurred beyond the UK’s borders. The judge agreed, and the issue of Sealand’s independence seemed settled. In response to the episode, Roy began creating the necessary regalia of any state: a constitution, coat of arms and a political system. On 2 September 1967, he presented the micronation to his wife as a birthday present. She became Princess Joan. At this point, 14-year old Michael, his son, decided to leave his boarding school in north Wales to help his dad create a state. “I thought it was an adventure”, he says. The pair made the perfect father-son micronation team. Michael had already been expelled from several schools for getting into fights and was keen to swap
from the sea comes freedom
formal education for nation building. His father and his grandfather both had a military background so he was keen to follow their path. He had already told the school careers officer that he wanted to go to Sandhurst. “Just because we do what we do doesn’t mean we’re not patriotic,” he says. “My father would have gone out to fight for Queen and country until his last breath – as we all would.”
ichael brought youth and vitality to the project. He quickly learnt how to make homemade Molotov cocktails from rum bottles and petrol. The tricky bit, according to Michael, is knowing when to throw it. Out of necessity, he quickly became adept with firearms and is not intimidated by a gun: “a gun is just a tool, like a car, or a hammer.” Roy had two distinct leadership qualities: a belief in his own indestructibility and good connections. Roy was close friends with the chief of police in Essex, and helped the officers with firearms training. It seemed only natural that one of his friends would also have a helicopter – something which would prove useful in 1978 when some business associates of Roy executed a coup on the island. One day when Michael, then 27, was alone on the island, a helicopter arrived
with several German businessmen who wanted to turn the island into a leisure spot. He recognised them from previous projects with his father but was still reluctant to let them land. He decided to let them land anyway and was quickly tricked into imprisonment. Michael explained that “Germans being Germans thought ‘oh, this is a country, we better take it over’. A bit like Poland.” He was transported to Holland in a fishing boat but made his way back to England as soon as he could. Once he returned there was no doubt the only way forward was to retake the island by force. Roy’s network of friends mobilised behind them. They received donations of guns, the use of a factory for training and most importantly, their very own helicopter. Roy, Michael and as many of their friends as they could muster flew out to the island at night, travelling into the wind to avoid detection. As the helicopter hovered overhead, Michael slid down a rope, holding a gun in his hand. “We didn’t even have lifejackets,” he says. The enemy guard was drunk, the island was quickly retaken and the German invaders were imprisoned. The German government pleaded with the British government to assist them with the return of their nationals. Whitehall renounced all responsibility for the former Major’s micronation, so the German
Sealand’s ruling dynasty, the Bates family, currently reside in their royal bungalow in Leigh-On-Sea
embassy sent its own representative to Sealand. Roy took the act of negotiation as a de facto recognition of Sealand’s independent status (the micronation’s website goes as far as declaring that it has a long-standing relationship with the international community.
he next threat to Sealand’s sovereignty came in 1987 when the British government passed a law extending its territorial claim to 12 miles off the coast. Roy simultaneously declared that Sealand’s territory had also expanded and that Felixtowe was now part of Sealand. The Bateses said they would be willing to compromise with the British government. They had in mind a similar arrangement to the one which exists between Jersey and France: a median line between the two states. Britain chose not to enforce its renewed claim over Sealand and the principality has since avoided rocking the boat too much. Despite its apparent sense of rebellion, Sealand’s commitment to law and order was demonstrated in 2007 when it declined an offer of purchase from The
Pirate Bay. According to online newspaper The Register, the file sharing site offered the Bates family £65m for the island but Michael declined. He says it is because he believes in the principle of intellectual property: “We have no interest in infringing copyright laws. Quite the reverse – I am writing a book now.” Avoiding direct confrontation does not stop the micronation from punching above its weight in terms of the signs and symbols of nationhood. It has its own currency, the Sealand dollar, which is pegged to the better known US dollar. It has its own constitution and even issued its own passports until 1997 when 4,000 fake Sealand passports were used to launder millions of pounds’ worth of drugs. Membership of the Sealand aristocracy is available for a small fee via a form on its website. A lordship will set you back £30 while membership of the Knights of the Sovereign Order of Sealand costs £99.99. Sealand is the archetypal micronation. It shows other micronations that there are three things any micronation needs to survive: a quasi-religious belief in your own infallibility, good connections and, most importantly, macro-state indifference.
Prince Roy of Sealand 23
Kingdom of Lovely
Die Dulce Freure – Have a Nice Day
erhaps the second most famous micronation is the Kingdom of Lovely. The nation was created as a part of a TV comedy series called How to Start Your Own Country by the comic writer, Danny Wallace. The biggest problem for the nation is a lack of physical territory. It was originally intended to be situated in Wallace’s flat in east London, but since the comedian moved house it has reverted to cyberspace by default. The lack of symbolic territory has had a negative effect on the citizenry. Even though its population reached over 58,000 people, there has been no activity on its website since 2010. However the prospects for the dormant nation are good. Firstly, it has a well developed constitution that is available online for public scrutiny. The document astutely deals with complex issues of state such as the location of the capital. Section (1)(c) clearly states that “The capital city of the Kingdom of Lovely shall forever be Home”. The Kingdom of Lovely also benefits from good connections: it received guidance from Noam Chomsky and Prince Michael of Sealand during its nation building stage. Most importantly, the UK has shown ample indifference to the project, limiting the risk of an armed incursion.
elestia is the largest of our featured micronations. It claims the entirety of the universe with the exception of planet Earth. It was created in 1949 by James Mangan as a political movement to prevent future territorial conflicts in outer space. Its founder never actually visited the territory, though at its peak, the nation claimed to have over 19,000 “members” and even produced its own coins. Mangan reportedly issued US astronauts with passports during the Apollo missions. The concept died with its founder in 1970.
I kan ikke slå os ihjel – You cannot kill us
openhagen’s very own downtown micronation has been sticking two fingers up at the Danish state since 1971. Like Sealand, it occupies old military land – in this case, a former army barracks. Self-branded as a centre for anarchic experimentation, the micronation of around 900 inhabitants is best known for its open hash market: Pusher Street. Christiania has a long history of bad relations with its neighbouring state, Denmark. In 1979, some of the micronation’s cannabis dealers agreed to co-operate with the Danish police to crack down on hard drug peddlers. Instead, the police chose to ignore the heroin trade and suppress the sale of cannabis. Christiania’s inhabitants have been reluctant to deal with the police since then. But in 2004, the Danish state closed down the cannabis market and have since escalated police controls. There is also currently a campaign to normalise its inhabitants into the market system. With no firm leadership, little sympathy internationally and a hostile neighbouring state, the prospects for a truly independent Christiania are bleak.
Hajdučka Republika Mijata Tomića
Sveti. Ante platit ću ti misu, samo kaži koji naši nisu – St Anthony, I’ll pay you the mass, just tell us who did not
eccession from Yugoslavia by its composite parts has been charactised by extreme violence, but one micronation whose independence has been gained peacefully is the HRMT. The nation was founded in 2002 following a dispute over natural resources. Specifically, none of the local municipalities would take responsibility for plugging a motel into Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national grid. In exasperation, the motel owner Vinko Vukoja Lastvi declared independence as an absolutist state. The booming winter sports industry means the future for the micronation looks promising. It also has a well developed bureaucracy that includes a Ministry for Wine and a slightly more questionable Ministry for Easy Women. Immigration is welcomed: single and double rooms are available.
MARS Illustrated by Rose Cleary
Would you leave your friends, family and the Earth behind forever? Ellie Slee meets the people who have applied for a one way ticket to the Red Planet
hat has Earth got left to offer us?” asks Melissa. “It’s about time we ventured out. And we can all sit here and talk about that, but unless people do something about it, it’s never going to happen. I want to be a part of it. I want to be the first one to leave.” Melissa Ede is 54 years old and one of 100,000 people who have applied via video upload to become one of the first four humans to move to Mars. “It’s an impossible dream made reality,” she says of the Dutch-funded attempt to colonise the planet in 2023. The mission is the brainchild of Bas Landurp, a billionaire entrepreneur who had the idea while studying at university. His primary motivation when developing plans for Mars One was not space exploration, but the business model it presented if successful. He has support from John del Mol, the creator of Big Brother, who claims that the entire project could be backed by the
media as a one-way, eternal reality TV show. Landurp believes it has the capacity to pull in more viewers than the 2012 Olympics, and therefore the potential to generate more revenue. He says “Literally everybody who has access to internet or TV will watch it and, by that time, nearly four billion people will have the internet, so imagine being the brand that sponsors an event like that. You’ll immediately have the biggest name on the planet.” Vinod Kotiya, 30, from India, is less interested in having the biggest name on the planet. He wants to go to Mars “to find the answers to the questions of our existence.” He says, “I am ready to sacrifice my life. But I know in my lifetime, I’m not going to see the answers. I hope I’ll be reborn in the distant future so I can see the progress of mankind.” This sense of progress is echoed by his potential spacecraft roommate Erica Meszaros, 25 from the USA, who says, “To me, the desire to explore a new world, a planet completely different from the one that every person who has ever lived has ever known, is intrinsic and essential to the human spirit.”
It’s time we ventured out and I want to be a part of it. I want to be the first to leave
If you make a mistake up there, you’ll kill someone
nother candidate with no intention of achieving worldwide fame is Paul Leeming, 40, an exmember of the Australian Navy and Air Force. He believes his military expertise will set him in good stead for life on Mars, explaining, “If you make a mistake up there, you’ll probably kill someone.” Paul, who now works as a film director, says that the expedition is something he has dreamed about his whole life. “I want to inspire humanity. You know, stills from the Curiosity rover are one thing, but being the first human on Mars to film it would be incredible.” Due to the difference in surface gravity on the Red Planet, it is thought that the participants’ bone density will change so dramatically that they would never be able to survive on Earth were they to return. As former astronaut James A. Pawelczyk, PhD, pointed out as early as 2006, “The rate at which we lose bone in space is
10-15 times greater than that of a postmenopausal woman. There’s no evidence that bone loss ever slows in space. Further, it’s not clear that space travelers will regain that bone on returning to gravity. Recent data suggests that not all people are recovering.” Each astronaut embarking upon the expedition therefore does so on the condition that they will stay on the Red Planet forever. Melissa isn’t worried. “I won’t miss much. Green land, I suppose, and the wind blowing on my face – if I ever ventured out of the pods, I’d have to wear a space helmet, as it’s impossible to breathe out there.”
oth Vinod and Erica are married, yet seem unphased by the prospect of a lifetime of intergalactic loneliness. “My husband fully endorses it,” Erica explains, while Vinod says his wife thinks it’s a joke, and has promised to lie
in front of the spaceship before it takes off. “I will miss my little princess most, my daughter Jeannie,” he says. “I hope someday she’ll come to meet me on Mars.”
n spite of the fact that, as Paul acknowledges, the Mars One expedition seems likely to be “the biggest television event in history”, not one of the candidates seems worried about Big Brother style tiffs on the
rocket. Vinod is sure that human nature requires a certain level of compromise, while Erica points out that “training with these people for seven years will give the ample opportunity to learn about them and learn how to get along with them.” And Melissa? “If I got on that spacecraft and couldn’t stand someone, I’d just have to deal with it. I mean, we work with people we can’t stand every day; it’s not much different to that. Except it’s forever.”
I will miss my little princess most. I hope someday she’ll come to meet me on Mars
THE UNTHINKABLE IF THE DISTANCE BETWEEN MADNESS AND GENIUS IS SEPARATED ONLY BY SUCCESS, THEN IT WOULD SEEM THAT SOMETIMES THE ONLY DISTINCTION BETWEEN INSANITY AND ECCENTRICITY IS WEALTH Written by Anthony Cuthbertson Illustrated by Jenny Callan
live Palmer has been known to embark on projects that might otherwise be mistaken for the musings of a mad man, if it weren’t for an estimated £2.5bn fortune that allows him to transform such peculiar whims into reality. The 59-year-old Australian mining tycoon has previously entertained plans that include building zeppelin air-ships, establishing his own football league, and, more recently, forming a ‘Jurassic Park’ of life-size mechanical dinosaurs on his golf resort in Queensland. Continuing the theme of extravagant recreations of 1990s blockbusters is perhaps Palmer’s most audacious plan to date: the construction of an exact replica of the Titanic. Due to set sail in 2016, there appears no greater reason for it, other than simply because he can. “When you reach my age you either want to go on a holiday or build a boat, so I thought I’d build a boat”, Palmer says. “I’ve got enough money to build the Titanic, so why not do it?” At the Titanic II world launch press conference in New York in February, Palmer revealed that he would be funding the project himself: “The sky’s the limit I think. All the money I’ve got is the budget.” Though details about the expenses may be vague, the plans are clear: the boat will replicate the original, complete with Turkish baths, a grand staircase and the same menu that was found on the fated 1912 crossing. Yet there is one important difference – this time it will be equipped with enough lifeboats. Palmer himself says
he will be passing the cruise in the third class cabins. “That’s where the fun is to be had,” he says. A captain is needed for such a venture – Palmer has already received eight applications after advertising the position in May this year. He says the job holds “a certain elitism”. He also claims that so far over 40,000 people have registered online for tickets, with some reportedly willing to pay up to $1m (£641,000) for a chance to be on the inaugural voyage.
ot everyone is so enthusiastic about the project, however. An online petition has already been started by a descendent of someone who survived the 1912 disaster, which resulted in the death of 1,523 people. Dave Fredericks, whose great-grandfather Walter was a White Star Line crew member, wrote “(Walter) lost so many of his friends that night. I know he would not approve.” Unfortunately for Fredericks, three months since the petition began there are still less than 100 signatures. The idea that building Titanic II is simply a vanity project, or even that it is unusual, is dismissed outright by Palmer. “What’s eccentric about building a ship?” he asks. “Unfortunately I just keep making money at everything I seem to do. It now looks like this project will be a real financial bonanza, so then I’ll be faced with another problem of what to do with that amount of money and I’ll have to build Titanic III. So, there’s a sequel.”
F U R T H E R
R E A D I N G
Imagine no possessions
t’s easy if you can afford it. Multi-billionaire and serial philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen found his own solution to the tiresome question of which luxury mansion to own: don’t own any real estate at all. Thirteen years ago, the astonishingly successful investor decided to sell his home in Manhattan and private island off the coast of Miami. Since then he has spent his time in a string of luxury hotels around the world. “I have always spent a lot of time in hotels, so it started to seem easier to do this. I feel happier.” He carries his scant possessions from hotel to hotel in a small paper bag.
Goldfinger on the pulse
emurs and penguins potter among the assembled works of Koons, Hirst and Lichtenstein in a £32m glass and steel complex, perched above the city of Tbilisi. It is the home of Russian oligarch and Georgian prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and his £64m art collection. The Bond villain-like construction was designed by Japanese architect Shin Takamatsu and contains an indoor zoo, a cafeteria built into a mirrored sphere and an indoor swimming pool. He has proposed solving Georgia’s economic problems by creating a Guggenheim-esque museum in central Tbilisi to house some more of his high-end art.
Time is money
or those billionaires with an ego as big as their bank accounts, leaving a longterm legacy is important. The forward-thinking CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezo, has taken a more unusual approach to this with the creation of a clock that will outlast the deca-millenium bug – the bug predicted to cause blips in software expressing years with five digits. Bezo’s gizmo will cost an estimated £27m and is being built inside a mountain ridge in Texas. Once it is finished, it will play an individual melody on each of the 3,650,000 days it is intended to exist. “Over the lifetime of the clock, the United States won’t exist. Whole civilizations will rise and fall. If you think something is important, and you think nobody else is going to do it, then it’s a useful thing to do,” Bezo says.
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Heroes are all around us...
Stylus Tomas Jivanda meets the caped crusaders taking Neighbourhood Watch to a new level.
Turn over 37
t is dusk in a quiet park in Birmingham, where a lone drug dealer has set up shop for the night. The punters start to turn up one at a time. Watching, crouching out of sight in the darkness, is an unwelcome guest dressed from head to toe in black. Unbeknown to the criminal, the dark figure has been watching him for weeks. There is a moment of quiet where the dealer thinks he is all alone. Suddenly, out of the darkness, appears the masked figure wearing a cape and wielding a baton. The drug dealer draws a knife and swipes, but he is unable to make contact. Eventually he is disabled, disarmed and handcuffed by the mysterious character, before the police are called to finish the job. The masked vigilante’s name is Nighthawk and he is a self-styled Real Life Superhero. It sounds like a British Kick Ass movie, but this is real life. Nighthawk is a 22-yearold part-time firefighter and trained boxer who has been patrolling the streets of Birmingham for the past nine months – and he really doesn’t like drug dealers. The scene described happened earlier this year and was one of the most challenging incidents Nighthawk has encountered. One that was hairy enough to make him briefly question what he does. “It was a bit of an error on my side, I
did go in all guns blazing and let myself slip a little bit. Obviously I had to use force. I’m not going to lie, it did scare me a bit and did make me question myself and whether I was capable of this sort of action. But after speaking to friends inside the community I got a bit of a confidence boost and got myself back out there and carried on,” he tells me over the phone.
ighthawk won’t meet in person for fear of his identity being revealed, which could lead to reprisal attacks. He is, however, just one of a network of Real Life Superheroes who are active across Britain today. He is also leader of one of the biggest groups of RLSHs: the United Legion. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in the coastal town of Dover. The wind is blowing and squawks of seagulls fill the air. The high street, despite being filled with closed down shops, is bustling with families. Sticking out like a sore thumb are Blane Jones and Zacharia Jones, two members of the United Legion who I am on day patrol with. Blane is 22 and works as a car washer. He is tall, skinny, very talkative and polite. Zacharia is just 16 and finishing his GCSEs, and is the younger brother of Blane’s best friend. He is very quiet and
Blane Jones. Photo: Tomas Jivanda
Full body spandex suit
Hooded leather cape
tells me he was slightly apprehensive about meeting me. Neither will reveal their real name or remove their masks. “Where have they all gone? There’s usually loads around the public toilets,” says Blane, who is dressed in a full-body spandex suit, ski mask and a long, hooded, faux leather coat-cum-cape. Day patrol mostly consists of feeding the homeless and helping them out in any way possible. We eventually find a few and the heroes stop to buy them snacks. One recipient, Andy, who is covered in tattoos and has a chunk out of his ear tells them, “That’s lovely thank you so much. I hope people realise what you are doing.” Most are extremely appreciative of the chat and offer of food. “On day patrol we speak to the homeless and treat them like ordinary people, because it can’t be nice when they are sitting there and everyone is walking past just ignoring them, not even acknowledging them as human beings. So we sit, let them tell us their story, and if they need anything to eat we offer to go and get them something,” says Blane. Surprisingly the RLSH don’t receive the level of comments and abuse that I was expecting. Most people smirk and subtly point them out to friends. One family asks for a picture of Zacharia – who is dressed in a black spandex suit, skull mask
and leather jacket – which he describes afterwards as “the best thing ever”. Blane was in Costa buying a panini for a Big Issue seller and is disappointed to have missed it. Their masks are, in fact, quite creepy and Blane admits that they don’t quite look like Spider-Man. “We’re not here to scare people though,” he says, although they have before, particularly on night patrol.
ight patrol is where the action, if any, happens. The guys go out on Friday and Saturday nights in Dover or Hastings, sometimes joined by two other Hastings-based RLSHs, Animal and Nightwatch. The work mostly consists of breaking up fights. Blane says it rarely gets too physical, though, as most fights stop because the belligerents simply pause to laugh at him: “It’s not as action-packed as you’d imagine it to be honest. When you break up a fight it’s usually because they stop fighting to laugh at you and then you can talk to them, try and calm them down, have a laugh with them, tell them to have a good night.” “I haven’t been hurt yet. I know I will eventually but it will be worth it.” He carries a canister of Deep Freeze or Deep
Zachariah Jones. Photo: Tomas Jivanda
“When you break up a fight it’s usually because they stop fighting to laugh at you”
Heat as a legal substitute for CS gas. Zacharia, Blane’s junior for quite a few years, is slightly more apprehensive: “I often get nervous before a patrol and while on patrol. Scenarios constantly play through my mind; I’m constantly thinking about what could happen.”
he pair have been doing suited patrols for a year and half, since finding out about the RLSH movement on the internet. Over time, they have met an increasing number of fellow crime fighters. “It’s good to know we’re not the only ones walking around looking like idiots,” Blane says, adding, “we’re not doing it for the thank you’s – we’re doing it because we can, we can help people.” This is a sentiment echoed by Nighthawk, who is keen to keep a low profile: “I don’t want the fame at all, I just want to know that I’m making a difference, that satisfies me enough,” he says. “I don’t wear a suit in order to make myself feel good or simply to create an alter ego, I do it in order to be a recognisable symbol – some people do need a symbol and someone to look up to. I don’t like the way things are going and the police don’t seem to be doing enough. I think it needs someone to step up to the mark and try and do at least something.”
True to his aim to go out and do as much good as possible, it is not only crime fighting that Nighthawk engages in: he also does a lot of work with the homeless and visits children in hospital. “When I was a kid, I was always a massive fan of Batman and superheroes. I grew up with a stepfather who was very abusive towards my mother. This made me want to help people, to do something good and help children who might be in the same position I was in,” he explains.
trategically, Nighthawk is highly organised and does not rely simply on patrolling in order to carry out his self-imposed crime fighting duties. He targets the areas and drug dealers that keep cropping up in order to put together a list of suspects, before moving in to stop the activity, doing his best to keep violence to a minimum. He also pursues his own investigations following robberies and anti-social behaviour. Things often get physical, he says, especially when confronting dealers. “With drug dealers it depends on how they want to play it. If I speak to them and they are happy to move on that will be it,” he says. “But nine times out of 10, they tend to see it as me affecting their business. If they recognise that with me being there
Phoenix. Photo: Roberto Fischer/ Flickr
they are going to lose money, they can turn quite nasty. I do sometimes have to use the baton.” Throughout his activities, Nighthawk endeavours to stay on the right side of the law, but does keep his baton hidden from the police – while some are very supportive of his work, others are more sceptical, and he has been told to move on or that he should leave it to the professionals. Many see him as completely mad, something that he insists is incorrect. “I’m not crazy. I’m actually quite levelheaded. If you saw me with my friends, you would never guess I’m an RLSH. If someone tried to tell my mates I was Nighthawk, they would never believe you,” he says.
he Real Life Superhero movement has gained a lot of traction in the past few years, particularly in the US. Across the country, there are hundreds of men – and women – throwing on suits and heading out to fight crime. There are a group of RLSH operating in nearly every major city in America. The most famous collective is Seattle’s Rain City Superhero group, led by the mightiest RLSH of them all, Phoenix Jones, an MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter and celebrity in his own right. He is the reason Blane and Zacharia adopted the name Jones.
Phoenix has been assaulted, stabbed, and allegedly shot, all in the line of duty. He is the RLSH who has come closest to the persona of Batman – Batman without the money being what many RLSHs liken themselves to (although Kick Ass probably remains the best comparison for most). The movement has grown in the UK over the past five years or so, although personalities come and go. Notably, Night Warrior in Manchester, The Dark Spartan in Torbay and The Statesman in Birmingham all received fleeting national media coverage before hanging up their capes.
urrently there are around 14 active RLSHs in Britain. Some, such as The Man in Black – who many of the community, including Nighthawk, look up to – have ceased wearing a costume as they feel that their work is more productive in plain attire. One of the 14 is Stylus, an RLSH who operates in Birkenhead. Like Nighthawk, he has a slightly more physical approach than Blane and Zacharia. He has been patrolling with a bo staff – a wooden kung fu stick – ever since he was attacked in the town on the way back from, yes, watching Kick Ass at the cinema. “I was beaten up pretty badly and, as I came to, I looked up and there was a name spray-painted on the wall: ‘Stylus’.
“I was beaten up pretty badly and, as I came to, I looked up and there was a name spraypainted on the wall: ‘Stylus’”
So I took that as my moniker and donned a mask.” A fan of comic books, he is currently developing a new outfit based on DC Comics’ Red Robin, but for the time being he patrols in a suit and tie, plus a shiny black skull mask. Most of his activity is breaking up fights, but he also deals with muggings and vandals. “Truth be told, during weekdays, there’s not a lot going on, most days I will come home in about an hour as the streets are dead. But weekends, when people have been out clubbing and drinking and worse there can be a fair few incidents. “It does get quite physical and assailants have turned on me a few times, but I’ve always been able to deal with them.” He does however use force “only if absolutely necessary”, adding, “I’ve never seriously injured anyone and I stick to the mental point that I’m not batman and if I do seriously hurt someone there will be repercussions.”
ack in Birmingham, Nighthawk is trying to push the activities of RLSHs in the UK to the next level. He is currently looking for new members to join his own group the Justice Union, and is urging anyone who is interested to get in contact with him through Facebook. He provides full training and vetting before membership to make sure people are serious. He is also in the process of building a tech and communications department inside the Justice Union. The communications team are focussing on developing an ‘Oracle’ system to watch over hotspots and the RLSH out on patrol, tracking locations through google maps and radio contact. He certainly has some big ideas and it can only be a matter of time until the RLSH movement is as big here as it is in America, if Nighthawk has anything to do with it. Criminals of Britain, watch out.
A DAY IN THE LIFE THE LADY WITH THE LONGEST FINGERNAILS THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN Imagined by Ellie Slee Illustrated by Katie Slee
wake up between 4.45 and 5.15 every morning. There are various reasons for my early awakening. Sometimes my hand flops off the bed and I fall out after it. In 1988, my husband Bingham built a small padded platform on my side of the bed for when this happens. Occasionally, if he is in imminent danger, Bingham wakes me up. We used to be able to spoon freely before I started growing my babies in 1976, but after a sleepy snuggle that resulted in deep tissue facial lacerations in the mid nineties, we no longer have that luxury. Bingham tends to give me a shove if I get too close in the nighttime. Of course, when conscious, our relationship is totally normal and loving. Other things that might wake me up are an itchy nose (killer) or a hunger pang; I don’t know if you’ve ever considered the
physical implications of extensive nail growing, but boy, maintaining those dead cells can make a woman hungry. Bingham and I will eat a mushroom and bacon omelette for breakfast. He sautées the mushrooms and I whisk the eggs. One of the best things about my babies is that most kitchen utensils became redundant about three years into the growth. Potato peelers, cheese graters, pie slices: gone. These days I have a cutlery drawer at my disposal, 24/7. When Bingham has gone to the club, I tend to help look after my grandchildren for a couple of hours in the morning. I know what you’re thinking, but trust me – diaper changing is only a problem if you make it one. I’ll prepare us all a fish stick sandwich with a side of Cheetos for lunch. Picking up potato chips is a challenge that I like to think I rise to admirably.
OF LEE REDMOND...
Lee Redmond gazing longingly at a pen
nce we’ve eaten, I’ll scoot off by myself to the salon in the drop top, my nails blowing softly in the wind behind me. The rest of the afternoon is solely dedicated to my manicure. I have three professional nail artists working on each hand at any one time. By about four o’clock, I feel like a new woman. Paying the bill is another story as signing cheques and picking up coins can prove difficult for me. Thankfully, I have a tab there, and Bingham handles our accounts. I go home and take a long shower, taking care not to blind myself when I’m shampooing. And speaking of pooing; not a problem. Ways and means people, ways and means. After I’ve wrapped myself up in my fluffy robe and I’ve given the babies their evening moisturisation mask, Bingham
and I tend to watch television. We’ll fight over the remote a little as he normally wants to watch the game, but throwing a ball around feels alien to me… I just can’t connect with that kind of TV. I like ‘The Swan’, that series about women who want a load of surgery. They’re all so weird; it’s a regular freak show.
Lee Redmond playing basketball
Lee Redmond in the bathroom
NO PLACE LIKE THESE HOMES Written by Emma Craig
Photographs by Lou Purplefairy
Winchester Mystery House, USA, image: Nicola Kirk
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS, BUT THE HEART CAN WANT SOME UNUSUAL THINGS
THIS IS HOW WE DRUID
Lawn House, Austria, image: freshome.com
Entrance to the Abode of
Chaos, France, image: Michael Cosgrave
Shark House, Mexico, image: Sheila Williams
nable to escape the intimate connection they have with both their designers and their inhabitants, houses have the potential to evolve into something a long way from the three bed semis of suburban dystopia. Here we have assembled some of the greatest departures of form from around the world, with professional and amateur architects alike all bringing their own unique perspective to what they believe defines this most primary of constructions.
Transparent House, Japan, image: Guen-K/Flickr
Redmond Treehouse, USA, image: Moochida/Flickr
awn House, Austria One glance at this house in Frohnleiten, Austria, should tell you that all is not as it seems. Windows become doors, stairs lead to nowhere and lawn transforms seamlessly into wall. That this house, designed by Weichlbauer Ortis Architects, is based on the work of Escher will not come as a surprise. Once inside, the ethereal becomes perilous as doors lead off the edge of first floor landings. The building is described as a ‘single family home’, though you would have to be a brave parent to let your child loose in a space so evidently born of deliberate confusion.
edmond Treehouse, USA Imagine the kind of treehouse you used to dream of as a kid. Now imagine your dad actually started building it, only to become so invested in the project that he ended up working on it for over 20 years. That is exactly what happened
to the Rondel family of Washington. Steve Rondel’s son was just five years old when he started work on its construction, but now Rondel is hoping that the arrival of grandchildren will spur him on to complete what has turned out to be a spectacular tribute to childhood, complete with vaulted ceilings, a watchtower and a balcony.
ransparent House, Japan If you like spending your weekends slouching in your pyjamas and watching trash television, this might not be the house for you. The 914ft² property in Tokyo has completely transparent walls, allowing its inhabitants to reconnect with their ancient tree-dwelling ancestors, according to designers Sou Fujimoto Architects. Indoor merges with outdoor and plenty of seating is provided in the shape of miniature platforms where people can chill like their primate cousins – just don’t expect to find anywhere to hang your paintings.
Snail House, China, image: Reuters
nail House, China We’ve all been there: nightmare neighbours, late night sirens and terrible smells from the dodgy takeaway downstairs can all make you wish you could just pick up your home and move it elsewhere. Well that’s exactly what Liu Lingchao of Liuzhou in China did. The travelling salesman has created his own portable house using plastic sheeting and bamboo poles and carries the 130lb structure around on his back like a snail. He can move up to 12 miles a day with his mobile home, but with only a few metres of space there’s no room for guests. hark House, Mexico The houses of Mexican architect Javier Senosiain Aguilar are famous for their fantastical representations of organic forms, but his shark house in Mexico City has to be one of his most outlandish. Shaped, unsurprisingly, like a beached extra from Jaws, the house is perched atop a crested wave of grass with its mouth gaping and eyes wide with aggression. The inside replicates that of the fish itself, with a skeleton of steel bars covered in a ceramic coating which smooths out any distinction between wall and floor. Blood-orange mosaics sit on top of this, giving the whole thing a distinctly living, biological glow.
inchester Mystery House, USA Located in sunny California, the home of arms heiress Sara Winchester grew continuously in both size and chaos from 1884 until her death in 1922. Legend has it that Sara believed she had to keep adding to the building to appease the spirits of those killed by Winchester guns. She held nightly séances where she supposedly received design instruction, resulting in a sprawling, 4-acre gothic pile with architectural quirks such as staircases leading into the ceiling, doors leading to nowhere, and four fireplaces in a single small room. bode of Chaos, France To describe the Abode of Chaos, located in a rural village near Lyon, as a collection of 2,500 artworks is to severely underestimate the total sum of its parts. A surreal creation of artist Thierry Ehrmann, the house is a living repository for everything dark that lurks in his imagination. His ultimate aim is to convert the 17th century farmhouse into a ‘war zone’, with murals of dictators and sculptures of famous scenes of destruction scattered around the property. The local Neighbourhood Association meetings must be a joy to behold.
King Arthur. Photo: Lou Purplefairy.
THIS IS HOW WE DRUID Written by Toby Youell Photographs by Lou Purplefairy and Tooba Masood
Left: King Arthur. Photo: Lou Purplefairy. Right: Astrologer Royal, Bapu. Photo: Tooba Masood.
t is a dreary Wednesday morning at the Royal Courts of Justice. Barristers in black robes chat idly at the doors of courts. Litigants in blue pin stripe suits send emails from their phones. Pacing between them, muttering to himself, is a man in white robes that depict a red dragon with a stonking erection. This is King Arthur. He is here to apply for a judicial review of the Ministry of Justice’s alleged duplicity regarding the internment of ancient bones found under Stonehenge. He claims they have simultaneously reassured the Druid community that the bones will be returned to the ground after testing, while telling the University of Sheffield that they will change the Burial Act which currently obliges the institution to rebury the bones by 2015. Around a dozen Druids wait for him outside in the drizzle. They come from as far away as Yorkshire and the Netherlands. This disparate group has found itself fighting to keep our ancestors’ remains in the ground and struggling to keep nature and our past sacrosanct in the face of uncompromising modernity.
Nobody knows exactly how many Druids there are in the UK. The consensus among those outside the court puts the figure in the thousands. Notwithstanding methodological problems, 4,189 people reported themselves as Druids in the 2011 census. This puts Druidism slightly behind “Heavy Metal” as a religion, which returned 6,242 adherents. A companion of Arthur was more mystical about the number of British followers: “We reveal ourselves when we find our like-minded people.” Liz, a longstanding Druid living in London explains that the main focus of Druidism is the concept of time, spiritualism and an awareness of the seasons. She says that Arthur himself is very political but she is a member of several Druid orders, some of which focus much more on celebrating nature.
ach Druid fashions their own set of rituals and beliefs. Bapu, the Astrologer Royal for the Loyal Arthurian Warband, puts his faith in concentrations of energy. He was born
Loyal Arthurian Warband. Photo: Lou Purplefairy. Following page: King Arthur. Photo: Lou Purplefairy. with the ability to observe these concentrations and has since learned to harness his power through chanting from the belly. He says he felt the elation of the British public when Margaret Thatcher died. Other Druids approach the religion from the perspective of clairvoyancy. One of the protestors outside the High Court, Peter, is a full-time clairvoyant from Yorkshire who uses a long staff as a sort of lightning rod for spiritual energy. He believes that modern medicine and druidic spirituality complement each other well.
nother protestor, Julian, a middleaged IT consultant, approaches Druidism from a shamanic perspective. He became a shaman after taking the hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca in Peru and sees Druidism as its English cousin. He believes abstinence as a virtue and claims to once have fasted for 36 days. Bapu explains that Druidism is a very free religion: “If there are 10,000 druids in this
country, there are 10,000 ways of doing it. Popeye had it right: ‘I am what I am, Popeye the Sailor Man’.”
owever, one Druid who is certainly not abstinent is King Arthur, a man with an inexhaustible appetite for mischief. The cider-swilling, chainsmoking biker decided to become King Arthur after an identity crisis at a squat party in Hampshire in 1986. His first move was to change his name to Arthur Uther Pendragon by deed poll. He claims his authority through the ownership of Excalibur, a sword he bought for £100 after showing the shop-owner his driving licence. He is, however, a renunciate and refuses to sign on. He lives in a caravan next to Stonehenge and survives on tributes of food and cider from his devotees. He says that, like Gandhi before him, he merges the two roles of spiritual and political leader. “I’m the only full time Druid I know in Britain” he tells me outside the court. This visit
is only the latest in decades of court appearances up and down the country. He has sought judicial reviews and has previously been prosecuted in relation to public order offences and carrying an offensive weapon – Excalibur. He became heavily involved in the campaign to open up Stonehenge for the winter and summer solstices, after the Wiltshire Police blockaded the stones in 1985. Arthur spent most of the next 15 years in and out of prison for trying to access the site. He also became heavily involved in the anti-road building protests of the 1990s, where he showed solidarity with a motley coalition of socialists, anarchists, environmentalists, and, of course, Druids.
ow that Stonehenge is open for druidic festivals, LAW protests for other social issues, such as the bedroom tax. Arthur explains that they choose their campaigns based on the Druidic Code of truth, honour and justice, all of which are breached by the tax. When asked what it is that holds the Warband
together he has a simple answer: “me”. And what drives him? “I was born that way.” Back in the Royal Courts of Justice, King Arthur presents evidence that the Ministry of Justice has been duplicitous. The lawyers acting on behalf of the Ministry of Justice do not turn up and I am the only spectator in the public gallery. The other druids have chosen to wait outside to greet him in front of the television cameras. The judge dismisses his case. King Arthur simply packs up his things and leaves. He crosses the cathedral-like atrium and attempts to justify his loss: “They’ve got it all sewn up here.” “Hey, Arthur!” A security guard shouts at him from across the room. “How did it go?” Arthur says he lost and vows to continue the fight with direct action should they take more bones out of the ground. They part with a handshake. He turns to me: “He’s a witch. We’ve got half of English Heritage on our side.” We reach the doors and he pats down his robes and adjusts his collar. When ready, he opens the doors, smiles, walks down the stairs and addresses his followers.
Druids are organised into a series of Orders, which are loosely governed by the Council of British Druid Orders. King Arthur is its Battle Chieftain (a non-voting officer role) and his order, the Loyal Arthurian Warband, fights campaigns in elections, protests and courtrooms. Their ceremonies follow the Eightfold Wheel, which is based on astrological and agricultural seasons. For example, 1 May is known as Beltane and is a celebration of the meeting and subsequent love of the pagan God and Goddess.
Guo Fengyiís work at The Alternative Guide to the Universe
Written by Tomas Jivanda
Image: Asger Carlsen
The Alternative Guide to the Universe at the Hayward Gallery
he coming summer months see contemporary artists showcasing some of their more peculiar work throughout the UK and around the world. There are the puppeting skills of new kid on the art block Geoffrey Farmer, stories sent out to sea, a back catalogue of websites gone by, and a drag-version of Margaret Thatcher in memoriam. It’s contemporary artwork that even readers of The Eccentrist will find, well, a little out there.
Download the ‘scan me’ app onto your smart phone from www.scan. me then simply scan the code below. You will then be directed to a page on our website where you can find out more about upcoming exhibitions and events and watch bonus video work by Simon Senn.
One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age by Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied Image: thephotographersgallery.org.uk
If you ever look back on your previous internet escapades and cringe, then the latest curated creation by Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied will show you that you’re not alone. ‘One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age’ is a selection of webpages from the now defunct web hosting service Geocities, all of which were 66
This summer the Hayward Gallery takes you on a journey through time and space with a radical exhibition led by self-taught artists and architects, fringe physicists and visionary inventors. Each contributor presents unorthodox perspectives on the world; exploring fictional identities, designing imaginary cities, building healing machines, and even fashioning new letter forms designed to ‘liberate the alphabet from the strictures of Western Civilization’. 11 June – 26 August Southbank Centre, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk
last updated in the late 1990’s. The exhibition gives a platform to these often forgotten fansites whilst simultaneously commenting on the very real issue of archiving online information. 18 April – 7 July The Photographers’ Gallery www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk
The Surgeon and the Photographer by Geoffrey Farmer
Stories Sent Out To Sea by Do Not Look at the Sun
The upcoming issue of the offbeat literary magazine Do Not Look at the Sun is expected to take their ‘found poetry/ free prose’ ethos to new levels. Following on from their previous issue ‘Paperplane Poems’ - which saw poems distributed by way of thousands of paper planes across five continents - the eighth issue will see contributors’ words sent out to sea as messages in bottles. September 2013 www.donotlookatthesun.com
the show is an intricately captivating affair employing traditional techniques such as collage and puppetry. This exhibition is sure to excite both Farmer fans and spontaneous gallerygoers alike. 26 March – 28 July Barbican, London www.barbican.org.uk
Head to the Barbican to see the latest offering from Canadian installation artist Geoffrey Farmer. ‘The Surgeon and the Photographer’ is the culmination of three years’ work and is currently premiering in the UK. With something of a reputation for engaging his audience, the artist has a lot to live up to, but true to form,
Dominic from Luton as Margaret Thatcher by Dominic from Luton
Image: Dominic from Luton/Saatchi Gallery
Dominic From Luton, aka Dominic Allan from, yes, Luton, produces autobiographical art that focuses on his own relationship with his hometown, as well as the perception of it held by other people. This particular piece portrays Dominic dressed as Margaret Thatcher, wheeling around a dilapidated Luton housing estate in a decrepit wheelchair. It is, like so much of his work, both unexpected and satirical, providing commentary on the destructive effect of Thatcherite policy on provincial towns such as Luton. 26 April – 29 September New Order: British Art Today Saatchi Gallery www.saatchigallery.com
Think you’re brave enough to stroll through the food halls at Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason or Harvey Nichols? Think again, says Tooba Masood.
ou may be there to try out some of the world’s finest delicacies, but you’ll be surprised at what’s lurking on some of the less visited shelves.
Any great drink has a sting in the tail, but Edible’s scorpion vodka takes the task more seriously than most. The drink is spiked with a real farm-raised scorpion, which is left to infuse in the vodka for three months following a special detox diet. It is rather unconventional but the decomposing arthropod adds a soft, woody taste to the vodka and, somewhat counterintuitively, smoothes off its sharp edge. Natasha, a sales assistant at Selfridges, said: “It is best served neat but also tastes good with simple mixers such as tonic.” £22.50, Selfridges
salt. This unusual condiment has a strong smoky flavour and is used in south Mexico as a salsa and guacamole seasoning, though if you want to be really authentic, the best way to try it is with a measure of tequila and slice of fresh lemon. £7.99
Civet coffee beans
If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, you might be interested in rare civet coffee beans. The palm civet cat roams Sumatran coffee plantations at night picking and eating the ripest fruit; once it has passed through the animal’s digestive system, the resulting ‘kopi luwak’ is considered to be the world’s finest coffee. It has an intense flavour, but unlike other coffees, no aftertaste and only 5,000kg of the stuff is found each year.
At Selfridges you can buy gin infused with earthworms. Yes. Earthworms
Vodka-flavoured scorpion lollipop Our editor Anthony Cuthbertson tried the vodka flavoured scorpion lollipop. He said: “The lolly didn’t taste like vodka, more like stale toffee. The scorpion’s claws and limbs were like chewing toe nails, while its body was chewy and powdery.”
Not exactly a rave review… If you’re worried about the safety of eating creepy crawlies, then worry no more because on 13 May, the UN released a 200page report which stated that it is perfectly OK to eat insects. The Food and Agriculture Organisation claimed that creepy crawlies are an underutilised food source for humans, livestock and pets. It added that two billion people already supplement their diets with insects, which have the added benefits of being full of protein and minerals.
If you like the sound of scorpion vodka but can’t quite stretch the budget far enough cover a bottle, you can always try a tiny scorpion encased in a vodka flavoured lollipop. The candy also comes in toffee flavour, just in case you know any minors who are also into eating scorpion. Or you can just have the scorpion covered in rich dark chocolate. £5.19, Selfridges
Next to the vodka and scorpions, you’ll find English gin infused with an edible earthworm. Yes. An earthworm. These slimy critters are farmed in the south of England and, according to the manufacturer, are highly nutritious and add a unique flavour to the gin. You can even eat the worm once you’re done with the drink (though why you would want to do that exactly is a question worth contemplating). £26.99, Selfridges.
‘Worm salt’ consists of ground worm powder mixed with chilli flakes and common rock
Monkey picked tea
If you’re more of a tea drinker, then you can try a rare Chinese leaf picked by trained monkeys in the mountains. According to legend, centuries ago monkeys used to collect tea for their masters as a sign of affection and any animal that does the job is treated as a member of their human family. Although the tradition of training monkeys to pick tea is dying, there is still one small village in China where they continue the practice. £14.99, Harvey Nichols
Pearl powder and lollipops
If your stomach (or your head) can’t handle the thought of eating worms and scorpions, you might enjoy pearl lollipops instead. Made from fine pearls, sugar and vanilla, these Japanese treats are considered to be an aphrodisiac, with pearls taking a central role in child-bearing rituals. The powder can be sprinkled into champagne or white wine to give it a pearly iridescence, and is also reputedly good for anti-aging. pearl lollipops,£4, pearl powder, £9.49, Selfridges
BONES UNDER THE HAMMER
Written by Tooba Masood
s any collector will tell you, the auction house is the place to go if you’re looking for something a little less off-the-peg. A recent example comes courtesy of Christie’s, where in April this year, an anonymous bidder spent £66,000 on a massive pre17th century egg belonging to the now extinct elephant bird. At 21cm in diameter and 30cm in height, the egg was over 100 times the size of a chicken’s egg. The elephant bird, a native of Madagascar, was the largest bird ever to have lived and is said to have resembled a heavily-built ostrich. With long legs and talons, it grew to around 10ft tall and was hunted to extinction between the 14th and 17th centuries. Also in April, a rare fragment of a Dodo femur bone was set to be sold for an estimated £15,000 at Christie’s. The bone was excavated in 1865 by George Clark, a natural history enthusiast, and is believed to have been the first dodo bone up for auction since 1934. There are far more unusual things to splash your hard earned cash on, however. In 2011, one of John Lennon’s molars was sold for £23,000 at Omega Auctions, an auction house that deals with music and movie memorabilia. Lennon gave the tooth to his housekeeper, Dot Jarlett, in the 1960s as a souvenir for her daughter. Jarlett’s son told the BBC that Lennon said: “Dot, will you dispose of this?” then changed his mind, and added that since her daughter was a Beatles fan, she should give it to her.The authenticity of the tooth was verified by a sworn legal affidavit signed by Dot Jarlett herself. Similarly, in 2009, a lock of Elvis Presley’s hair was sold for $15,000 (nearly £10,000), while in an earlier auction in 2002 the hair had been
sold for nearly 10 times as much. The clippings reportedly came from 1958 when Elvis had to cut his hair in order to join the army. This particular lock was from the Gary Pepper collection (Mr Pepper being the president of the King’s first fan club). “Elvis gave Pepper the hair so he could send it out with fan mail while Elvis was abroad,” said Mary William Kohnke, a director at Chicago-based auction house Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. “We do not do any DNA authentications at our firm but it [the hair] was examined by a leading expert in the US in the field of celebrity hair and found to be his.”
eanwhile, back in the UK, in 2010 Dominic Winter Book Auctions sold the ashes of Frisky the cat, who appeared in more than 1,000 episodes of Coronation Street, for a reported £700. The Gloucestershire based auction house previously found itself in the limelight in 2004 after selling a slice of Princess Diana’s 1981 wedding cake for £200. To deter ants, the auction house had it wrapped in special waxed paper. A year later, a five finger cigar case, which was a wedding
IN THE 1960s, JOHN LENNON GAVE HIS TOOTH TO HIS HOUSEKEEPER “AS A SOUVENIR FOR HER DAUGHTER”, WHO WAS A BEATLES FAN. IT LATER SOLD FOR £23,000
UPCOMING AUCTIONS Dominic Winter Book Auctions: Printed books, maps and documents: 24 June Facial hair of Charles I: TBA Christie’s: Pop culture: 26 June The Exceptional Sale: 4 July Saeed Motamed Collection: 7 October Vintage couture & accessories: 13 November The Collection of the Late Mrs T S Eliot: 20 November Paul Fraser Collectibles: Buzz Aldrin’s space suit and a complete set of Apollo 11 crew autographs: ongoing Leslie Hindman Auctioneers: Vintage couture and accessories: 20 August Property from the estate of Betsy Pickering Kaiser: 11 September Bonhams: The doll collection of Alexandra and Sidney Sheldon: 24 June
Strange Sales in Cyberspace The Meaning of Life - In 2007, nine
bids were made on the auction site eBay for ‘The Meaning of Life’. The highest bid was $10.50, though, perhaps unsurprisingly, this did not meet the reserve price.
A Man’s Whole Life - When Ian Usher
from Darlington fancied a fresh start in 2008, he decided to put his “entire life” up for sale on eBay. The auction included his house (and everything in it), his car, and his motorcycle, as well as his job and his friends. He made £192,000, despite expecting more.
A Grandmother - In 2009,10-year-
old Zoe Pemberton from Essex advertised her granny, Marion, on eBay, describing her as “annoying” but “cuddly”. Despite a number of offers, the listing was removed due to what an eBay spokesman termed “rules about selling people”.
present to Winston Churchill, went for he upper class equivalent of a £7,400. garage sale can also throw up In November 2005, Dominic Winter some gems. In 2011, a large also sold Napoleon Bonaparte’s canine pair of silk bloomers belonging tooth for £11,000. The French emperor to Queen Victoria were sold had the offending tooth removed during for £9,375 at Lyon and Turnbull’s auction his exile to St Helena after the battle of of antique treasures from Old Battersea Waterloo in 1815. House, the home of the Forbes family. The “Each item has its own story,” says US publishing dynasty had decided to sell Chris Albury, a resident expert at the contents of their London mansion in Dominic Winter. “As auctioneers we start deference to their love of Scotland and from the position of in recognition of believing nothing, their Highland THE ENVELOPE THEY but as we look at roots. WERE KEPT IN READ the evidence we According to “MY BELOVED are sometimes Philip Gregory MOUSTACHE convinced that an of Lyon and HAIRS” item is genuine.” Turnbull, royal He added that items are usually the most gruesome easier to verify lot to be auctioned as they are often was a handkerchief monogramme d stained with the or accompanied blood of Charles I. by letters of The King alledgedly authentication. handed the hanky “In 2008 we to Colonel John auctioned a lock Penruddock before his beheading in 1649, of hair belonging to Mary, Queen of after which Penruddock dipped the linen Scots; it was a family heirloom for Lady in Charles’s blood. Belhaven,” he says. “One of her ancestors “Buyers are often collectors of the had been an officer at Holyrood Palace in oddities but for Diana material, such as Edinburgh and was given that lock of hair the cake, often punters are speculating as a present for Queen Victoria. He kept that it will make more selling to avid an extra lock for himself. It kept coming collectors in the USA,” adds Albury. down generation after generation with a “We were also going to auction King letter signed ‘Mary R’.” Edward VIII’s toilet roll holder He added that there is a big market for – not his own, but one produced royal memorabilia in the US, though most for commercial sale which was buyers prefer to remain anonymous in then withdrawn following the order to avoid theft and too much media abdication.” attention. The same auction house The hunt is therefore on for the next sold Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s extraordinary item to come under the moustache trimmings for hammer. Be it dental, sartorial or gustatory, £150 in 2007. The hair there is little that the determined collector came with a portrait of the cannot find on sale at auction. The only author and the original thing that seems to be in short supply is envelope they were kept remaining dignity on the part of those who in which read: “My find their once prized possessions at the beloved moustache hairs.” heart of the haggle.
Shoots Who loves cats? Everybody. And who loves the internet? Everybody. It only seems right, therefore, that the two come together in a spectacular array of creative memes, says Tooba Masood.
Bodhi’s looks, left to right: At the office; ‘hello ladies’; good tie-ms
Photo: Yumiko Lander/ Etsy
Lion hats 74
Meet Bodhi, a four-year-old shiba inu living in New York. He likes to dress well and is interested in never washing his denim and lurking around Soho. Bodhi and his band of followers have taken petshion to new heights, with tie pins and button down collars completing the outfits which make Bodhi the smartest mutt in town.
In 2012, a couple of cat owners decided to make their furry pal look a total fool by drilling a large hole in the centre of a slice of bread and placing it around the animal’s head. They then encouraged others to follow suit, resulting in a Facebook page with over six and a half thousand fans (though we imagine they have few admirers among the cats themselves).
Wanted a lion cub and settled for the next best thing? Well now you can make your pet kitty wear a handmade lion hat and pretend that you really are on the savannah after all. Make like a true safari veteran by taking a photo and getting it online, all in homage to designer Yumiko Lander who came up with the idea last year.
A creative step up from simply making your cat look like its fiercer African cousin, Catushi involves dressing up your feline to resemble a beautiful piece of Japanese
sushi. One of the yummier-omnomingtype of internet trends this year.
Dogs in pantyhose
Yes, you read that right. Dogs in tights and high heels is an internet sensation which took off big time in early 2013. Since August last year, dog lovers in China have been dressing their pets in the sexy attire, then uploading photos of their dolled up pooch to Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
The fad involves positioning a cat in front of one’s face in such a manner that the feline’s furry chin appears as if it is a part of the model’s facial hair. It all started when a cat owner by the username Cataster uploaded a photo of his cat beard on Tumblr in 2011, but it wasn’t until more recently that the trend really began to catch on. The craze has since spread to dogs and their owners.
In 2008 a yoga instructor in Chicago came up with a new idea: dog yoga, where dog owners perform yoga with (and on) their dogs. With Marie Osmond a fan and some of the more fashionable corners of New York believing it creates a “unique bonding experience”, Doga looks as though it will be around for some time yet. Warning: not everyone in the yoga community is comfortable with this.
Ellie Slee looks at trends from around the world that may or may not be appearing on the high street this summer.
The bubblewrap mac
taying home this summer? You’ll be needing a raincoat, then. In the midst of our wettest summer since... well, last summer, I road tested a bubblewrap mac one miserable day this May. The coat is handmade was picked up in a small boutique called Eclectick in Budapest. It is available in transparent pink or white, in small bubbles or big ones. I opted for a pink model with smaller bubbles with a hood in the event of torrential, hair destroying downpours. The coat is cut in a flattering princess-shape with fashionably cuffed sleeves and uses velcro fastenings. I remained dry as a bone throughout my jaunt into the stormy depths of New Cross. There is one significant problem with this coat, and it isn’t it’s distinct lack of pockets - although as a pocketophile, I find this severely impacts on its wearability. Where else can one put individually wrapped boiled sweets and bits of fluff? - no, the trouble with this coat is other people. Sitting on buses, standing on escalators, walking through shopping centres; fellow humans cannot keep themselves to themselves. They want to pop you and their need is so great that no amount of angry hissing can stop them. Buy at your peril. €15, from Eclectick (20 Irányi Street, Budapest Hungary). If you’ve got a bit more cash to splash, Issey Miyake’s bubblewrap coat is on sale at Ivo Milan for €2232 (ivomilan.com). For boys worth a protective layer, head to Astray London (astrayclothing.com), where their durable mens bubblewrap mac will set you back £125. For bubbly accesories that everyone can use, Fred makes a durable silicone bubblewrap look ovenglove, currently down to £10 from £14 on hirstandhirst.co.uk.
L Getty Images
ast summer in China was all about the facekini, the last word in sun and man repellent beach chic. Having seen the hot pink balaclavas in Harmony Korine’s heat drenched teen-girl gangster flick Spring Breakers, we’re beginning to think the trend wasn’t so bad after all.
eddit might not be a designer’s first port of call for inspiration. But a post that went viral in June showed photographer Leo Caillard and retoucher Alex Persani at their finest, photoshopping modern day outfits onto ancient statues. Looking good. 77
THE APOCALYPSE GAMESHOW Written by Tomas Jivanda
adies and gentlemen! Step into freakiest place in Britain: The Apocalypse Game Show, a deranged microcosm of society that, for one night only, I am lucky enough to be a part of. The Apocalypse Game Show is a role play night where a chosen group of audience members play out a series of catastrophic scenarios in which they fight for survival while everyone else cheers on. Hosted by Dex Synister, ‘the prophet of catastrophe’, the event does stints in a variety of weird and wonderful locations. Tonight it’s in the MS Stubnitz, a decom78
Dex Sinister: The prophet of catastrophe. Photo: Tomas Jivanda
missioned East German transport vessel moored at Canary Wharf. I step onto the deck and am directed into a dark passage. Walking down the stairs I find myself in the bowels of the ship. It’s dimly lit and has a ‘house of horrors’ feel: I have entered the post-apocalyptic dystopia where sexy zombies in tight slit-to-the thigh skirts and (very) revealing ripped shirts stumble around hunched over, telling participants where to go in creepy voices. I am sent to an obnoxious man in a trilby hat and suit who assigns me a number and scans me with a glowing stick, the first in
a series of assessments to determine my chances of surviving the upcoming apocalypse. Next I step into the ‘physical’ assessment stage where two louts in boiler suits start aggressively screaming in my face, instructing me to shout things while holding stress positions. I’m worried. After around half an hour waiting in the bar on the second level, watching more scared looking people turn up, a selection of 10 numbers are then called to go and get boiler suits. Out of the 60 people there, my number is one of the ones called. Now I’m very worried.
Tomas gets stripped of his boiler suit after failing to survive the apocalypse. Photo: Harriet Rankin
Eventually, everyone is ushered back down to the hull where a game show set up has appeared. Suddenly the charismatic Dex Synyster bursts onto the stage and the night comes alive. He proclaims that we are all obsessed with annihilation, and that David Icke is right: not just the Queen, but Thatcher are part of an alien lizard race. He then brings Jimmy Savile into the mix, in-keeping with the tasteless, corrupt theme of the night, and concludes that the world is ruled by a “lizard paedo mafia” to a chorus of cheers from the audience. It’s an energetic stand up routine and is very funny. The first guy called up to compete spins alien invasion for which he has to repel taser toting extraterrestrials through sneezing. He’s successful and so survives the apocalypse and receives a departmental role in the ministry of the new world order. Next I’m up. The scenario I land on is one where the Green Party has become
Strange zombies: Going for the Battle-of-Britain-waged-in-Amy-Winehouse-hairdo. Photo: Tomas Jivanda
a pagan cult which has taken over the world, denouncing medicine and all that is modern. I have one of the simplest tasks: to decide if I should take the chance of finding medicine to save my baby. I went for it and got it wrong. My baby has survived but I’ve angered the gods and must now be sacrificed.
embers of the cult dressed in shamanistic ritual clothes circle me, chanting prayers to a nature god. Soon – I’m not sure if this is voluntary or forced – I get on the ground while being stabbed with a foam dagger to the chorus of screams; by now I am getting into the spirit of things. I haven’t survived the apocalypse and so must be stripped of my boiler suit by the zombie women, which is probably a better fate than being admitted to the new world ministry. Throughout the night, increasingly drunk contestants play out further
scenarios, including a man-made disaster, famine, dying of boredom and, a highlight of the night, a dystopian eugenics breeding programme. The night culminates with a final game, a religious scenario which provides the climactic ending. A ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ race ensues, before the audience is ordered to kneel for a recital of a corrupted version of the Lord’s Prayer – something you would expect a squewed Christian cult to do pre-mass suicide. Finally, a contestant is strapped into a harness and starts to be hoisted through the centre of the ship while God stands at the top, demanding a sacrifice. And with that the night comes to an end. Thoroughly enjoyable, it is by far the strangest night out I’ve ever experienced.
See apocalypsegameshow.com for when the world will next be ending. 79
SEE ME ROLLIN’ Cheese Rolling on Coopers Hill Words by Toby Youell Photos by Tomas Jivanda
hy would anyone want to race a lump of foam cheese 200m down a 45 degree hill? For Kenny Rackers, a 27-year-old daredevil from Colorado Springs, the answer is simple. “I heard it was the craziest race in the world”. Kenny, wearing a heavily grassstained Captain America costume, is the first person to win both the downhill and uphill race. He says the secret is to not be afraid of the hill. The annual cheese race at Brockwell, Gloucestershire, is thought to have been held every year since the 15th century as part of a ritual to ensure fertilise the land stays fertile. Contestants traditionally chase an 8lb wheel of Double Gloucester cheese down the hill. They are then invited to race each other back up. The event was drawn to national attention by comedian Dave Allen in the 1970s and now attracts runners and watchers from around the world. A local man called Josh says that the adrenalin is a big part of it. He assures
“I heard it was the craziest race in the world”
us that the experience is “fun, very fun”. He says the most important thing is to get ahead of the others so that you do not trip over any falling participants in front of you – but he will only be doing it once this year as his legs hurt quite a bit from the first run. Some contestants do the run again and again. One such person, a kiwi dressed as Jesus, wants to make the most of his day. He says, “I’ve been training for two years and thought, ‘fuck it’. I got off to a good start, lost my footing about half way and
sort of blacked out for the last bit… It [blacking out] probably relaxes you a bit, maybe you’ll break less bones if you’re relaxed.” The event has been officially banned since 2010 due to health and safety concerns, but unofficial events have continued and five thousand people turned up on 27 May this year to watch the spectacle – no doubt encouraged by national press coverage of its attempted prohibition, which is also the reason for this year’s foam, rather than real cheese.
This page: Ryan Fairley, of Brockwell, the winner of the third race said: “I’m a very proud man today, I really am.” Facing page, L-R: winner of the ladies race, Lucy Townsend, also of Brockwell; American Kenny Rackers, winner of the first race; an unnamed man dressed as a ninja won the fourth race.
Winner of the third race local balalala said:
Facing page: Coopers Hill from the top. This page, from left: Men stand at the bottom of the hill ready to catch competitors. Below left: Ryan Fairley on his way to winning the third race. Bottom right: Things get out of control.
As if to highlight the danger involved, the races are brought to a premature end when a Spanish contestant breaks his ankle. Witnesses say his foot was hanging off his leg by his skin. It took the emergency services over two hours to take him off the hill, the crowd of first aiders around him effectively blocking the course. The sight does not however put off a local young man, also called Josh, who says, “He’s probably got weak bones.” His friend dismisses the idea he is in pain, adding, “you should have seen the smile on his face”. Another local called Marcus also has little sympathy for him: “He’s not from around here, he shouldn’t be doing it”. He blags a cigarette and takes a swig from his own two litre bottle of White Lightning. Ignoring the woman making halting motions to the rows of racers poised to run at the top, he swiftly takes off and tumbles to the bottom of the hill. Mustapha, a Spanish spectator shakes his head. He remarks that it reminds him of the Running of the Bulls in Spain, but with one caveat: “The bull is harmless compared to this.”
World Egg Throwing Championships 30 June Swaton, Lincolnshire A series of events, including the Accuracy Challenge, Egg Throwing Static Relay and Russian Egg Roulette, the championships are part of the Swaton Vintage Day. Anyone can enter, but it costs £2 for three eggs. www.eggthrowing.com
World Tin Bath Championships 13 July Castletown, Isle of Man Brainchild of the local Ale Drinkers’ Association, the races have been an annual fixture for over 40 years. Competitors battle it out to be the first to row around the harbour at high tide. The event is BYOB (Bring Your Own Bath) www.castletown.org.im
World Bog Snorkelling Championship 25 August Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales The aim is to swim two lengths of the 60yd bog with the aid of just flippers and snorkel. There are different categories for entrants, including juniors and fancy dress. www.visitmidwales.co.uk
Gravy Wrestling Competition 26 August Rossendale, Lancashire A wrestling competition held in a pool full of gravy. Contestants must wrestle for two full minutes, with points awarded for audience applause and variety of moves. www.worldgravywrestling.com
World Tin Bath Championships. Photo: Simon J. Campbell
World Pea Shooting Championships 13 July Witcham, Cambridgeshire Contestants have to shoot a pea through a 12in tube a distance of 12ft towards a 12in target. Entry is £2 per person (£1 for juniors), with peashooters and peas available for purchase. www.witcham.org.uk
World Snail Racing Championships 20 July Congham, Norfolk Anyone with a snail can enter (the website recommends finding one behind a big stone), though each snail must be adorned with an identifying sticker before it can be raced. The winner gets a silver tankard stuffed with lettuce leaves. www.snailracing.net
BoomTown Fair 8 – 11 August Matterley Estate, Hampshire BoomTown is a three-day festival that presents itself as a lawless frontier town – the Wild West of a parallel universe. Music, crafts and performance unite to create one of the most surreal festivals in the country. www.boomtownfair.co.uk Horn Dance of Abbots Bromley 9 September Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire After collecting the thousand-year-old deer horns from a local church at 8:00am, the Horn Dancers perform their routine at various locations throughout the village. The horns are returned in the evening, just before everyone heads to the pub. www.thehorndanceofabbotsbromley.co.uk World Gurning Championship 21 September Egremont, Cumbria Part of the annual Egremont Crab Fair, the Gurning Championship celebrates the fine art of pulling a really terrible face while wearing a horse collar. Tooth removal is recommended as a way of making the mouth extra dexterous. www.egremontcrabfair.com
Isle of Wight Garlic Festival 17 – 18 August Newchurch, Isle of Wight Food and entertainment with cookery demonstrations all day, the Garlic Festival attracts 20,000 people a year. As well as garlic ice cream and jelly beans, there is live music, crafts and a fun fair. www.garlic-festival.co.uk
Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival 10 – 18 August Kettlewell, Yorkshire Life-size scarecrows are made by locals and displayed along a trail through the village every year. A route map is available for £1, with prizes available for solving riddles along the way. www.kettlewellscarecrowfestival.co.uk
Mattison, 14 time gurning world champion and gurning world record holder. Photo: Mark Elliot.
World Championship Hen Racing 3 August Bonsall, Derbyshire Chickens are given three minutes to race along a 15m track. Some competitors spend months training their hens, and in the past this truly international event has had entries from as far afield as Norway, Belgium, France and Germany. www.world-championship-hen-racing.com
CAREERS: SOMEONE’S GOT TO DO IT Words by Toby Youell Graphics by Tomas Jivanda
Near Earth Object Spotters
Bird Strike Operator
Internship. Be a part of the unpaid army of astronomers who check the night’s sky for objects hurtling towards the Earth. Candidates will be expected to keep meticulous notes of any extra-terrestrial observances. All reports should be sent by ASCII file to the Minor Planet Centre for processing.
Join the team that keeps planes in the sky, by chucking chickens into jet engines.
Requirements: A garden shed far from light pollution Perseverance Disinterest in family life Insomnia Internships are unpaid but references will be given if you are seen to excel at the work. New discoveries may be named after you. Additionally, in the event of a cinematic adaptation of our work, your character may be played by Liam Neeson for a 10 minute period prior to Bruce Willis’s entrance.
Orville Wright slaughtered a bird with his plane while chasing a flock around a neighbour’s cornfield in 1905. Since then, the birds have exacted revenge on the aviation industry through a series of kamikaze missions costing an estimated £7.8m a year. Until peace has been restored, jet engines are necessarily built to withstand bird impact at almost supersonic speeds. Competition for the role has increased significantly as advances in computer modelling have made live tests rarer. In addition to extensive qualifications in aeronautical engineering, candidates will need to have a demonstrable interest in animal cruelty. Recruits are not expected to provide their own poultry.
Industrial farms require efficient workers to accurately determine the sex of newly hatched chickens.
Human cannonball required for travelling circus. Will be expected to attain the industry standard of 61 metres high at around 60mph. There is no formal training as most human cannonballs are born in to the industry but a mentoring scheme is available for those who have only reached junior level.
Graduates from the Zen Nippon chick sexing school in Japan will be favoured over other candidates, due to its rigorous training standards. Less than 10 per cent of its students will succeed in graduating. You will be expected to meet the standard accuracy rate of 99.7 per cent at a speed of 8,000 chicks per day. The industry standard method is cloacal sexing, which was invented in Japan in 1933. Faeces must be forcefully evacuated from the chicken before examining the anus for signs of undeveloped genitals. Broiler Chickens can be sexed using the length of their feathers. Sexers are employed on a freelance basis, but can expect to earn around £10,000 per month.
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Your will be expected to work under pressure, specifically 9Gs at take-off and 12Gs at landing. Good numerical skills are essential to accurately calculate the settings on the cannon, which are mostly pneumatic or based on bungee chords. Accuracy is imperative as missing the landing net will probably result in death. There have been more than 30 deaths by human cannonballs since the device was invented in the late 19th century. This job is perfect for an individual who finds the idea of running away with the circus appealing but has little formal training in acrobatics or animal taming. Competition is fierce. Freelance human cannonball Rodrigo Pérez claims that his show is “with no limits” – apart from gravity, presumably.
YOU’RE NOT YOU WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY.
Dr Bongo Department of Health
STRENGTHEN YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM THE PUNK WAY
hree days ago, a thought struck me that seemed worth investigating. The original musing was “Ha, the grubby punk lifestyle seems to be good for my health, I rarely get ill.” Being the curious type, I thought I would look into the matter. Among the numerous studies and websites on the subject of the immune system, several key factors repeatedly came to the fore as encouraging resistance to illness. Let us begin, though, by looking at the fundamental workings of the human defence mechanism. There are three types of cells that protect us from disease: B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes and phagocytes, which roughly translate into the alert, attack and backup phases of fighting infection. They also have the capacity to remember previous invasions, and tailor their rapid response accordingly. The overlap between how these cells function and my grubby lifestyle is where it starts to get interesting. Gigs and festivals are like a gladiatorial arena for your immune system – I personally consider it a travesty leaving such an event without a
layer of the sweat and spit of a thousand revelers. With attendees travelling from all over the world, your immune system becomes party to an eclectic smorgasbord of infections, which it may not otherwise have been exposed to. This allows it to build up a greater back catalogue of
known, leaving the body better equipped to fight off a wider range of illnesses. Moshing is also a great form of regular exercise, which is vitally important for keeping the immune system healthy. If you are physically fit, your body is far more able to defend itself against un-
wanted attacks. Punks tend to be a little less than scrupulous when it comes to personal hygiene, which is another effective way of reinforcing the immune system, although you might not think so at first. Punks are best described as “less sterile”, rather than as completely unwashed – a state which helps to boost the body’s natural defences in two important ways. Firstly, a healthy human body is home to over 90 trillion microbes, beating cells on a ratio of 10:1. Most of these microbes are beneficial to us, aiding everything from digestion to healing, and to wipe them away with disinfectant wouldn’t do us any favours. They also do the important job of fighting any invading infection for both space and nutrients. Basically, if you have scrubbed your skin completely clean from the good guys, it gives the bad guys an open platform to invade. Yet despite the health benefits, there is one fairly glaring caveat to being a punk: owing to outside factors such as crowd surfing injuries, chronic liver failure and an all round risky lifestyle, our lifespan is probably below average. 89
hen the editor of this magazine, Andrew, called me and begged me to write an advice column, I was originally like no, fuck you, I won’t and you can’t fucking make me. I didn’t live the life I’ve lived just to listen to other people’s problems. Then my accountant, Hector - who is also my son, and the most difficult thing I’ve shat out since I smuggled those 12 kilos of cocaine out of Colombia in ’82 - told me I had to. Apparently I’m in dire financial straits or something. I don’t fucking know. His exact words involved being able to eat next month, which is kind of ironic when you consider I haven’t eaten more than six leaves of lamb’s lettuce since 1976. I’m Geraldine. You may know me from such films as... ha, who am I kidding, of course you know me, I’m more notorious than Biggie Smalls. But life hasn’t always been this blur of celebrity husbands and half-hearted endorsements. Let me give you a lowdown on my trajectory, the reason why I give such great advice. I was born sometime between 1900 and 1970, the eldest of five
Illustrated by James Carver
daughters. After my mother was murdered for diamonds on Venice Beach, I made sure my sisters made good matches - Beebee and Agnes married lawyers, Trisha a plastic surgeon and Nancy a Vanderbilt - but they began trying to meddle in my affairs when I became addicted to prescription drugs in the ’80s. The only one I speak to now is Trish, for botox freebie purposes. I myself have been divorced 11 times. Hector’s father, an impoverished university lecturer, was the love of my life, but he left me for an astrophysicist. I know you’re supposed to go for brains over looks but seriously, she was one hell of a five. I married my hairdresser, James, 20 years ago. We’ve never had sex - he’s the biggest homo I’ve ever encountered - but ever since I got into morphine my sexual appetite has been so low that it doesn’t really affect me. And I get a free cut and colour every week so eternal happiness is a small price to pay. So here I am. I asked my Twitter followers to send me questions and I answered the first five I could be bothered to. Turns out there are some seriously pathetic individuals out there. Get a life.
Dear Geraldine, I can’t decide whether to report my boss for sexual harassment. He makes constant jibes about my large breasts but I’m scared he’ll make my life difficult if I get him into trouble. It sounds like you’re the one making your life difficult by not getting a breast reduction you idiot. In a moment of madness last year, I cut off all my beautiful long hair. How can I make my hair as lovely as yours again? Again? Don’t kid yourself, your hair was never as lovely as mine.
I think my boyfriend might be gay. I really like him, but everything is pointing that way. What should I do? It’s not that your boyfriend is gay; rather, you’re not attractive enough to keep him happy. Settle for someone more in your league next time.
My son hates me. He’s 17 and since I got a bit tipsy and made a pass at one of his friends, he won’t talk to me or even be in the same room as me. Mothering at its finest. Children should be taught from a young age about feminine desire. He needs to I’ve got terrible acne. What skincare regime man up or be disowned. keeps you glowing all of the time? The secrets behind my peachy cheeks are diet and I want to be a star like you. I’m willing to do extremely expensive products. I never eat, meaning whatever it takes, I just want to make it. I’m there are no oxidants in my system. I also exfoliate not sure what my biggest talent is. I just want with goat semen every morning and go to bed each to be famous - teach me! night wearing a face mask of pond scum, stagnant milk You’re “not sure” what your talent is? You sound shit. and the menstrual blood of my Pekingese, Boadicea. Stop wasting my time. Geraldine x 90
A new quarterly magazine that offers a ‘meander away from the mainstream’ by documenting the more unusual and offbeat people, places and ide...
Published on Jun 21, 2013
A new quarterly magazine that offers a ‘meander away from the mainstream’ by documenting the more unusual and offbeat people, places and ide...