Amongst her many outstanding qualities, Hildie has the rare knack of buying me Christmas (and other) presents that always hit the mark precisely and accurately - and last Christmas was no exception.  Familiar, as she is, with my enthusiasm for meaningful trivia (of which there’s been plenty of evidence in this ‘ere blog over the years) and my love of trivia’s main tv outlet - QI - she killed two birds with one stone and gave me 1,339 QI Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop.

So I’m devoting this blog to both Hildie and her marvellous gift, which has managed to fuel my senses of wonder and curiosity at the same time.

There used to be a regular slot on The Nightshift, and subsequently on this blog, called Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know.  This is the ‘industrial strength’ version.

These facts have been chosen entirely at random by letting the book fall open wherever it wanted to and then sticking a pin in the page…

* New York City gets 15 times as much snow as the South Pole
* People who die of old age are more likely to die at 1100 than at any other time
* The average British woman owns 22 items of clothing that she never wears
* There’s a sports accessory store in Toronto called The Merchant of Tennis - for proof, see photo
* It’s impossible to suck water up through a straw more than 34ft (10.4m) long
* Prozac makes fish angry
* In 1673 Dover and Calais were joined by ice
* Astatine is an element so rare that there’s only one ounce (28.4 grams) of it in the whole world
* The ingredient that makes Brussels sprouts bitter is cyanide
* Snow which has been trodden to a mush is called ‘snowbroth’
* Only 2% of Kuwaitis are over 65
* Buzz is Arabic for ‘nipple’
* In England, spiders outnumber people by 500,000 to 1
* Half of all animal and plant species live in one country and nowhere else
* La Paz, in Bolivia, was the first South American city to get an electricity supply - it was powered by llama dung
* 70% of Americans believe in angels
* Adolf Hitler bit his nails
* Mice can cough
* The French for ‘grand piano’ is piano à queue, which means ‘piano with a tail’.

And finally…
Where we say cheese when being photographed, the French say ouistiti (‘marmoset’), Bulgarians say zele (‘cabbage’), Estonians say hernesupp (‘pea soup’) and Thais say pepsi.

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The first AGM since Adam was a lad will take place at 1100 this upcoming Thursday 6 February at Oliver’s in Grainger Market.  Admission - one amazing piece of trivia.

You’d better be there because the next AGM isn’t scheduled until August 2017.

So see you on Thursday

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Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


English is an amazingly colourful, expressive and eclectic language which has seemingly spread its semantic tentacles into every corner of human experience - it has more words than almost any language on Earth.  Inasmuch as this is so, you’d expect there to be an appropriate word for anything you may ever conceivably wish to say. 

But there isn’t.  There’s no word for that peculiar sense of smug superiority mixed with pity that (for example) newly liberated non-smokers feel when they see a group of freezing nicotine addicts huddled in doorways; and there should be a special word for the singularly annoying detritus of dried-on chewing gum stuck to the pavements around litter bins.

So however adaptive and innovative English has been, other languages - with much less global clout - can match it.  Dutch has a word that means ‘the pleasure of leaning into a strong wind on a clifftop’ and the Welsh word hiraeth signifies a mixture of longing, nostalgia and world-weary homesickness which is utterly untranslateable (as any Welsh-speaker will tell you).

Here, thanks to Hildie’s researches, are some more…

Waldeinsamkeit (German)
The feeling of being alone in the woods.

Cualacino (Italian)
The mark left on a table by a cold glass.

Pochemuchka (Russian)
A person who asks lots of questions.

Sobremesa (Spanish)
The time spend after a meal talking to the person you shared it with.

Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
The feeling of anticipation that leads you to keep looking outside to see if anyone is coming.

Komorebi (Japanese)
Sunlight filtering through the leaves of trees.

Dépaysement (French)
The feeling of isolation and disorientation that comes from not being in your own country.

Goya (Urdu)
The transporting suspension of disbelief that can occur in good storytelling.

Jayus (Malay)
An unfunny joke told so badly that you can’t help but laugh.

Panapo’o (Hawaiian)
The act of scratching your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.

Mangata (Swedish)
The road-like reflection of the moon on water.

They’re lovely, aren’t they?  Thanks, Hildie.

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My continuing campaign to de-clutter and de-junk my living quarters here in Truckshunter Towers has once again turned up some forgotten photographs squirrelled away in places photos just don’t belong.
 Children in Need - but I don't know which year.  Sorry!

 At the Tall Ships on Tyneside in 2005

 Two tableaux - a greengrocer's shop and a café - hand-knitted for the Blue Bus programme.
I love them - and wish I still had them.  I also wish I could remember who made them.
 Broadcasting from Ryhope Pumping Station Museum.  
Producer Steve Drayton is on the left.

After carrying the torch on Wearside for the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2005.
Left to right...Mam, me, Vicky (my nephew's partner), John and our Barry
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The first AGM for ages and ages will take place at 1100 on Thursday 6 February, starting at Oliver’s in Grainger Market.
If you can, please try to get there and prove that AGMs aren’t just Ian sadly sipping coffee and struggling with a crossword…

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Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com

On my New Year trip to London I met up with my cousin - our Sandra - for the first time in many years.  (Actually, she’s my second cousin; her grandfather and mine were brothers.)  When we were in our teens we spent a lot of time together - and I fancied her first boyfriend in a big way (if you catch my drift).

When we both moved to London in our 20s, we stayed in touch with each other.  These pictures were taken when we were about 26 or 27.  As well as constituting proof that I looked even more bizarre then than I do now, they also show what a lovely-looking lass our Sandra was.

Having met her again a couple of weeks ago, I can now officially confirm that she still is.

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Just over a year ago I had one of the most upsetting - even harrowing - experiences of my life.  While I was on holiday in the Dordogne with Serge, we visited the ‘memorial village’ of Oradour-sur-Glane.  You can read something of its nightmarish history - and see some photos, too - in blogpostings 398 and 401 (from September and October 2012).

Sid contacted me recently to tell me that an arrest has been made in connexion with the dreadful events that took place there. 

German prosecutors re-opened their investigation into the horrors of Oradour last year because documents have been found that implicate 6 men who are still alive and (presumably) well and live in Germany.  The investigators have visited the village several times (see the photo, above); they have spoken to the last two survivors of the slaughter.  And now, back home in Cologne, they’ve made an arrest.

Werner C has been charged with 25 counts of murder and hundreds of counts of accessory to murder.  At the time of the slaughter he was 19 years old and a member of the SS armoured division which carried out the massacre.

My problem with all this - and despite having seen the ghastly results for myself - is...should there - or should there not - be a ‘statute of limitations’ on prosecutions like this?

I know how unspeakably awful the mass-murder was and I’m glad that Oradour has been preserved exactly as the Nazis left it - as a permanent reminder of how savage and cruel they were and of the terrible suffering of the French people at the time.

I also know that many citizens of the countries occupied by the Nazis still bear a very strong grudge indeed against them which sometimes spills over (as it were) into a dislike - or even a hatred - of modern Germany and the people who live there.  I’ve heard opinions like those expressed by many people on my travels round Europe.

And I’ve been roundly berated for suggesting that - maybe, just maybe - it’s time to move on, memorials like Oradour notwithstanding.  After all, people have said to me, ‘you British were not occupied; you did not know of the true horrors and savagery of the Germans’.

True enough, I suppose.  Nevertheless I can’t help wondering what good will come of these upcoming prosecutions and how much strength we should give to the motive of pure revenge.  I wonder if retribution will be served, if consciences will be cleared and if memories will finally rest if Herr C - now aged 88 - is given the appropriate sentence for the crimes he was apparently a party to.

The savagery of Oradour-sur-Glane must never, ever be forgotten.  But I wonder if the time has come when its only memorial should be the village itself.

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Here - unseasonally and untypically late - are the answers to Ross’s Christmas Quiz (in posting 514).  Still - better now than not at all!

1  Epiphany
2  Cranberry
3  A silver bell
Pickwick Papers
5  Kylie Minogue & Chris Martin
6  Donner
7  16
8  Alistair Sim
9  James
10  The World Is Not Enough
11  Broomstick
12  Mountain goats
13  The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
14  To pay taxes and take part in a census
15  Greg Lake
16  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
17  Paris
18  Bobtail
19  The calendar
20  Melchior

Round 2
Oh tidings of comfort and joy
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Born the King of Angels
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel


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I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re under the impression that AGMs have fallen into desuetude.  If that is what you think, though - you’re mistaken.  They haven’t.  And to prove it….

AGM XLII will take place on Thursday 6 February at 1100 at Oliver’s (in Grainger Market).  We can always slope off somewhere else if the draughty alleyways of the market prove insufferably and insupportably cold.

What all this actually means is that I will be there - on time, as usual - with a copy of Cross-Stitch Monthly open on my lap, hoping that somebody else will turn up and buy me a cup of tea.

I hope it’s you.

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Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com