Offbeat: Here comes the bride ... 60 years later!

Following the exchange of vows, Denis and Jean hosted a reception at nearby Pill Memorial Club.

Express August 22, 2011

Sparrows are ‘like gangster rappers’

Chirping sparrows are actually trading insults like gangster rappers, a new study has shown.

What sounds like harmonious singing is really the noise of males trying to appear macho, say researchers.

And, just like humans, most of the boasting and trading of insults is done to impress the girls.

“Song sharing among sparrows is actually an aggressive behaviour akin to flinging insults back and forth,” said lead researcher Janet Lapierre, from the University of Western Ontario in Canada.

Sparrows have a large repertoire of songs but, when advertising for a mate, males stick to a ‘greatest hits’ selection that they perform repeatedly.

“The birds sing as aggressively and loudly as possible,” said Ms Lapierre.

Sparrows living in more competitive environments are likely to perform a more aggressive but smaller selection of songs, the researchers say.

This is like trying to prove themselves in a tough neighbourhood.

Those living in less competitive areas are more likely to sing their own songs rather than compete with other males by chirping the same tunes as them, the study adds.

The research has been published in the journal of Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.


Here comes the bride ... 60 years later!

A loving couple celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary by renewing their vows in front of the four original bridesmaids — 60 years after they tied the knot.

Denis, 85, and Jean Weaden, 78, met and fell in love in 1947 and got married four years later in 1951.

The couple are still very much in love and decided to celebrate 60 years of marriage at the same church to the exact minute of their original service.

Amazingly, the couple’s original bridesmaids Doreen Bullen, 76, Ann Speed, 75, Kathleen Horler, 72, and 69-year-old Dorothy Joyner reacquainted themselves with the important roles.

Sadly, Denis had to do without was best man John Prunell, who passed away two years ago at the age of 78.

Jean said: “Having a service to renew our vows was something I’d wanted to do for our 40th anniversary but it didn’t happen.I was determined to do it for our 60th and we saved up for the last two years for it.”

“It poured with rain the first time around but we had better luck this time. It rained a bit in the morning but it was beautiful afterwards. I was shattered by the end of it but all the effort was worth it. We had a fantastic day.”

The service to renew their vows was conducted by rector, the Rev Ruth Legg, with the happy couple sprinkled with confetti as they left the church.

Following the exchange of vows, Denis and Jean hosted a reception at nearby Pill Memorial Club.

Denis was born and brought up in Easton-in-Gordano with Jean coming from neighbouring Pill.

He met Jean in the village hall, known as The Hut, during a New Year’s Eve dance. Four-and-a-half years later, they were married in St George’s.

Denis said: “We even held the service at noon, exactly the same time as our wedding.”

“Looking from here, I can see The Hut where we met. I can’t dance but it was where people went in those days. I don’t know where the past 60 years have gone. I wouldn’t say we’ve never rowed but you just get on with it and today has been lovely.”

The couple, who have lived in the same house in Friendly Row, Pill, for 54 years, have four daughters and a son, 12 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren — soon to be 14.


Armed robber tried to steal sandwich

A night shift worker has told how a teenager held a gun to his head — and tried to steal his cheese and onion sandwich.

Garry Bell, 51, was on his way to work at a factory in Tindale, near Bishop Aukland, when it happened.

The would-be robber pushed a black handgun against his temple and tried to grab his pack-up, containing the sandwich, a bag of crisps and a bottle of pop.

“It was then that I got angry and swore at him and he ran off,” said Mr Bell. “I just carried on walking.”

He continued on his way to work and completed his shift. It was only when he told his girlfriend next day what had happened that he called the police.

“I just thought it was a prank and that it was a toy gun,” added Mr Bell.

“It was only later that I realised it might not have been, and even if it was just a BB gun, if it had gone off against my temple, it probably could still have killed me.”


Plot to make Hitler more ‘feminine’

Adolf Hitler was the subject of a British ‘hormone plot’ to lace his food with oestrogen as a way of making the Nazi leader less aggressive and more like his secretary sister Paula, Professor Brian Ford has revealed in a new book.

British spies came up with the Blackadder-esque idea to smuggle the female sex hormone into Hitler’s food as the Second World War raged on with no end in sight, the book claims.

Oestrogen was chosen for its tasteless properties, Professor Ford explains, and because of the fact that it would have a slow and subtle effect, thereby making it able to pass the Fuhrer’s food testers unnoticed — unlike poison, for example.

“Research had showed the importance of sex hormones — they were beginning to be used in sex therapy in London,” says the professor, a fellow at Cardiff University and a pioneer of popular science.

“The Allies hoped to smuggle oestrogen into Hitler’s food and change his sex so he would become more feminine and less aggressive.”


Car hit by a flying cow

Driver Robert Gould had a lucky escape from his car after the bonnet was flattened by a cow who leaped three feet over a fence and crashed into the bonnet, breaking a wheel.

The cow was trying to escape a farmer when it escaped into the road in Leeds, according to reports. Gould skidded almost 80 yards on impact, ending up on the other side of the road as he tried to stop. Luckily, he escaped with just minor cuts and bruises.

Unfortunately the bovine bonnet basher was announced dead at the scene. Robert, 24, said, “I was driving along when a cow jumped out and landed on my bonnet. It had hurdled a three-foot high fence and hit the front of my car. I had no time to brake and my car veered to the other side of the road. I was very lucky that nothing was coming from the opposite direction.”

“The police were very nice about everything, although I don’t think they could quite believe it either.”

“I am now looking out for low-flying cows when I am driving.”


Hen lays egg-stra large egg

A Chinese farmer is hopeful one of her hens can smash the world record for an egg. Zhao Li from Feixiang County, northern China’s Hebei Province was given quite a surprise when she discovered the egg, which measures an eye-watering 9cm long and 6.5cm wide with a circumference of 17cm. The whopper also tips the scales at 420 grams, with an average egg weighing just 50g.

Zhao said “I’ve been raising the chickens for a year, I fed the hens with nothing special; just chaff, melon skin and grass.”


Bat on a plane sparks panic

A bat on a plane caused panic among passengers on board a flight in the US. The animal was filmed flying through the cabin during a Delta Airways flight from Madison, Wisconsin, to Atlanta’ Georgia.

It caused so much distress that the pilot was forced to return to the departure airport. Passenger Mike Schmidt filmed the bat flying over passengers’ heads as they ducked and screamed.

The animal was finally contained when it flew into the onboard toilet and a passenger shut the door.

Mr Schmidt said: “I woke up to a small scream and then I saw the bat fly over my head. I grabbed my phone to get some video as my friends would never believe this.It went up and down the aisle about four to five times before being trapped in the back lavatory.”


Orangutan teaches road safety

Meet Bam the road safety primate who’s on a mission to make sure children in Thailand wear their helmet whilst cycling.

The eight-year-old Orangutan loves to cycle around when he gets the chance and was enlisted by the Thailand government to help spread a campaign message about accident prevention.

Launched on Friday at the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, Bam dressed in a bright yellow t-shirt rode his favourite blue bike (courtesy of some training wheels) through the crowd of thrilled onlookers.

He was also joined by two freewheelin’ friends, but it seems one forgot to wear her helmet, which is a big no-no for Bam who always wears his smiling panda hat whenever he hits the road.

Road welfare is a serious issue in Thailand with a staggering number of daily cases being recorded. In 2010, daily road accidents in Thailand averaged 559 cases a day with 616 persons injured and 52 killed.


Gnomes fight garden pests

Known as the ‘combat garden gnomes’, these back-garden ornaments form a lean green fighting machine. Foxes, rats, squirrels and other outdoor pests are in the cross-hairs of hand painted AK-47s — and you can be sure they’re not afraid to use them.

The idea to create the unit was formulated when Mr Thorsson was serving in Afghanistan and received a present of toy army men. ‘‘Someone sent me a package of those cheap plastic green army men as a gag,” he explained.

“I did some searching online and found that there were no blue plastic sailors. I felt unrepresented so I sent away for some materials and spent a couple of nights sculpting out little sailors.”

“Some months later I was out at sea on a container ship and had a lot more down time. I was mulling over what else I could do with little green plastic army men. I was also thinking of sculpting out some comical garden gnomes. It didn’t take long before these two ideas merged and I started sketching out Combat Garden Gnomes.”

Upon his arrival back in America, Thorsson began making the gnomes and soon enough they became a hit .


Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2011.