Testing

24/06/2014

Whether I can set this to be published some time in the future.

That is all.

Edit: it worked just fine, once I figured out that I needed to change the time to the local time here.

New Bloggage

18/06/2014

I decided to start a project on a new blog.  I’ll keep this one for Taiwan- and cycling-related things, but for the coming year I want to add a tune each day here:

http://fiftytwoyears52weeks.wordpress.com/about/

I hope you’ll find something you like or learn something new.  Guess the next day’s tune and you’ll win big prizes*. 

*Disclaimer: May not be true.

It’s Not Only the French…

06/03/2014

Regular readers will know that I take a certain amount of perverse pleasure from posting images of Carrefour’s typos.  I am very happy to report that they are in good company.  Here’s one from our Trans-Atlantic cousins:

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Crap photo (sorry about that) of a massive ad’ in the local Costco.  I think it could even be an Aussie wine, so bonus points to me for a real international find.

Actually, the French have come up trumps again.  There’s a new Decathlon superstore somewhere on this glorious island.  I know this as an advertising flyer arrived in our post box the other day and this caught my eye:

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I’ve no doubt that this would find a niche market, somewhere on this here Internet.

Taking a slight tangent with this one, as there’s nothing wrong with it – it just tickled me.  Teenage boys will also be giggling, I have no doubt.

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I’ll end on my favourite topic.  Cycling is about to hit town as the Tour de Taiwan 2014 kicks off in a few days.  I happened to be browsing the website and clicked the ‘translate’ option.  I think the Gusto Team may struggle (you may need to click on the image to appreciate this one):

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There are no top tunes about the Tour de Taiwan, so you’ll have to make do with this:

Another New Year – More New Tunes

19/02/2014

Last year’s offerings were pretty limited.  I guess there just weren’t that many releases that really struck a chord.  Here’s hoping 2014 will surprise and delight.

I’ll begin with this, simply because it was just on the radio and it prompted me to pull out the proverbial finger.  Where else have you heard brass used like this?

Another one I’ve been hearing a lot lately, from a band about which I have no knowledge.  The Bee Gees influence is there, for sure, but that’s not a bad thing.

I got tipped-off about this one by my nephew a month or so ago.  Didn’t immediately grab me, but after a couple of listens… well, give it a try and see what you think.

One more to finish this opening salvo, and it’s another band (with a dodgy name) which is new to me.  Lovely little guitar twiddle running through this.

A couple to add, before I forget.

Elbow, back with some new material.  I think I like this for its use of the phrase “oh, my giddy aunt…!”

Mr Albarn.  You never quite know what you are going to get, and the little string motif running through here is so un-rock’n’roll.  Nice video, too.

Here’s one that takes a while, but well worth the wait.  Bonkers video, too.

When all isn’t quite Ticket(y-Boo)

09/02/2014

There are many things about life in Taiwan that your average Westerner would find a little unusual.  In a previous post  http://fiftyyearsandcounting.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/be-carrefour-what-you-wishfour  I presented an image of the wonder of an Iron Man display in one of the many huge temples dotted around the island.  Pretty strange by anyone’s standards.  Then again, back in December, I was on an early bike ride when I was confronted by a truck pulling a trailer on which a scantily-clad young woman was pole dancing.  When I say December, I should point out that it was actually quite cold (around 7 or 8 degrees Centigrade); when I say early, I should point out that it was just after 7am; when I say a scantily-clad young woman pole dancing, I should say it was a scantily-clad young woman pole dancing, freezing her wotsits off while a couple of dozen old blokes looked on, comfortably wrapped in puffa jackets, hats and gloves.  Did I mention that it was 7am and 7 degrees and she was pole dancing on the back of a truck?  Sadly, I had no camera to hand as I was belting along at about 25mph behind a couple of local cycling monsters riding Cervelos with deep section rims and wearing Biketime Cycling Team jerseys.  (This in itself is noteworthy as I am used to riding steady pace at the beginning of a ride [and we were less than 30 minutes from the start] while cranking-up the pace in the final hour or so.)

Anyway, this is not what I wanted to illustrate today.  Sorry, but I’m going to have to have a bit of a gripe about driving again.  More precisely, a gripe about the bit that comes at the end of the driving bit: the parking.  I’ll forgive you for switching off now, but I’ll be brief.

Friday.  I drove across town.  I got to my destination and spent 10 minutes driving around looking for a parking space.  Here.

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While circling the block, I had to pass the car in the background a couple of times.  This one:

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Essentially, my gripe is this.  I spend 10 minutes looking for a space.  I park.  I get the legitimate ticket and I’ll pay my $NT20 next  time I go to 7-Eleven.  It’s a good system.  Meanwhile, Mr Nissan parks on a red line (equivalent to double-yellow back home) on a junction and he is completely ignored.  He was there before I arrived and he was still there when I returned about 30 minutes later.

As with most of the road behaviour here, there is no justice.  There is no enforcement.  There is no deterrent.  Plod simply pick on little old ladies on their scooters turning right on a red light.

Ah well, it gives me an excuse to entertain you with a road-themed classic:

Another Picture Essay

09/01/2014

Since my last effort to amaze and amuse, I’ve amassed a tidy little collection of images I need to share with the world.

As ever, Carrefour is a magnificent source of material.  I’ll start you with this:

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Since you ask, no, I wasn’t in the musical instrument section.  Proof?  This was in an aisle nearby:

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The neglect shown towards all those little infants saddens me immensely.  Still, if you have a hungry little monster to attend to, there’s always provision.  Just be careful to avoid the cashier:

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Sorry, crshier.  I have visions of a really uptight individual cursing all and sundry through clenched teeth.  You don’t want to be messing with him/her.

That’s enough for now, but fear not!  I shall return to Carrefour before I conclude this feast of visual delights.  It’s probably my favourite, so you’ll have to stay with me, and anyone caught skipping to the end will be placed in detention.

A change of venue brings me to the park just around the corner from our house, where there are strict rules by which we must abide:

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Funny.  We had been thinking of traipsing round there and firing up a barbeque, but the sputum issue had been a bit of a worry.  You can imagine how we were simultaneously relieved and disappointed, but that was nothing compared to the abject horror at being denied the chance to don our alpine gear. (It is still winter in these parts):

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I should point out that it’s as flat as the proverbial pancake in this part of Taiwan.  Oh, and I should think the last time Tainan experienced snow or ice, the British Isles were still joined to mainland Europe (if you see what I mean).

I’ve been lucky enough to hook up with a fellow Brit cyclist in the last few weeks.  I don’t have a picture to prove it, but I do have another cycling image to illustrate how bikes are revered out here:

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Rest assured, this is not an exceptionally valuable machine with delicate paintwork, it is not brand new and parked outside a bike shop, nor is it very cold here so keeping it warm is not an issue (see above), but there is this peculiar trend for leaving bikes partially clothed in bubble-wrap.  Any locals reading?  Please explain.  Ta.

On the subject of unusual clothing, there was some kind of religious festival the other day.  Many, many people passed by our house over a period of several hours.  Lots of what you’d expect.  Drums, dragons, lions, screechy-type music, firecrackers, gongs, bright colours, scooters, blokes chewing betel nuts, scantily-clad young women pole-dancing.  You know, that kind of thing.  However, what struck me was the number of these on show:

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That’s trilby hats, not Audis, in case you were wondering.  [Sorry, chaps.  Didn't feel it was appropriate to snap the pole-dancers!]  Who’d have thought that the good old trilby would find a home in this society, let alone in this kind of festival and procession?

For those of you disappointed by the lack of car focus in this post thus far, feast your eyes on this little beauty:

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Hilarious.  Even more so when I tell you that it has curtains fitted.  Made my day.

Now, we are often accused of stereotyping the Chinese, and I admit to having posted the dreadful Harrow gag a few months ago.  Then again, it’s difficult not to smile at stuff like this.  (Not a vely good pic, but look carefully near the blight light reflections):

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Makes good coffee.  I take care to purse my lips and brow it gently before I take a sip.

Christmas is now a distant memory, but at least we didn’t end up under the hideous golden arches this year.  I spotted this while we were in Taipei in November.  Seemed rather appropriate.

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Taipei also provided a couple of favourites.  Park rules almost on a level with that other Fine City, Singapore:

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Me and the boy needed to take a leak while we were enjoying the park; luckily neither of us needed a longer visit:

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We never did find the toilet for a No. 2.

After school classes can be found everywhere.  There’s one at the end of our little terrace that gives lessons on Lego.  Yes, really.  I took these for some friends of ours in Kaohsiung who are rather fond of Star Wars stuff:

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Sorry, Darren and Conner, they’ve been removed from the window now, but we know the owners if you want to come and take a look.

I promised some more CarrefourtheloveofGodwhatweretheythinking, so here’s one of which I’m particularly fond.  It also gives me the opportunity to shoehorn in an old favourite tune at the end:

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Like the kids sang, “We don’t need no edvcotion!”

And with that, all that remains is for me to say Happy New Year, everyone.

Ullo John, Gotta New Motor?

17/12/2013

Ullo John, Gotta New Motor?

Well, it’s not exactly new, but I wanted to acknowledge the new car in my life.
Well, it’s not exactly new, but I wanted to acknowledge the new car in my life.

My in-laws gave up their Mitsubishi Galant 2.5 V6 EXi, so that we might have something to get about in, rather than on.
My in-laws gave up their Mitsubishi Galant 2.5 V6 EXi, so that we might have something to get about in, rather than on.

She’s a lovely car, but 3 things have needed attention in the last few months.  Worrying times?
She’s a lovely car, but 3 things have needed attention in the last few months.  Worrying times?

Okay, I’ll stop the tiresome repetition, but it’s my little homage to Alexei Sayle’s lyrics from which the title of this post is taken.  It’ll mean nowt to many readers, so here’s a slice of 1982 pop nonsense:

The Galant, now carefully tucked up in the car port below where I write, is about 16 years old (I think) and has some 140,000 kms on the clock; she’s got a 4 speed automatic gearbox and runs beautifully, with that lovely V6 growl I first knew when I was the proud owner of an Alfa Romeo 164 way back in the 90s.  I hope I’ve not just put the mockers on her, but since she’s getting on a bit, it’s only reasonable to expect a few little problems, and I often catch myself thinking that I may end up stranded somewhere, unable to call the RAC, AA or Green Flag (other breakdown services are available).  Actually, do they even have an equivalent in Taiwan?

Several months ago, late one Friday evening, we set out to buy a camera from the Taiwanese version of Curry’s about a mile or so from home.  As I pulled up to park, the gear selector went all floppy.  My stomach flipped with that queasy feeling of doom, and I pictured major repair work and enormous wads of $NTs to get it sorted.  This was going to be painful.

A few weeks ago, the indicator lights started clicking at double speed, so I knew that a bulb had blown and quickly ascertained that to change the bulb I’d need to remove the light unit.  I have no tools here.  We made our way to the Mitsubishi dealer as I anticipated further $NTs for a job I could do myself quickly and cheaply, given different circumstances.

Last Sunday evening, we decided to get into the Christmas spirit, so a short drive to the delights of Costco seemed appropriate.  As we settled in to the car, we quickly unsettled ourselves as the motor would not turn over.  The battery was as flat as a pancake.  Funnily enough, at breakfast that morning, I saw the face of Jesus looking back at me.  Here’s the proof:

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Turnin-Shroud-type-incidents aside, we had to get rolling.  Our neighbour gave us the number of a local garage.  5pm, Sunday evening.  More $NTs.  The chap said he’d be right with us.  He turned up within 5 minutes and his portable battery did the job of getting us going, but he warned us that a short drive to Costco would not generate enough charge, and told us to call him later if we found ourselves stuck on Level B1 with the bonnet up.  Sure enough, we did; he came again and we made it home with only a short delay.

The cost of all this has now reached the grand total of three hundred and ninety six.  396.  Dollars.  New Taiwan Dollars.  That’s just over 8 quid.  New gear shift switch (supplied and fitted at the roadside): $200.  Light bulb (supplied and fitted at the dealer): $96.  Two call-outs to get car started (home and car-park): $100, with the first one done without any charge.  The battery has gone for a re-charge at a local garage.  They want just $50 for the privilege.  Just for a bit of perspective, when my battery failed in England the cost for getting the AA/RAC (I forget which) to come and help us (with Ming heavily pregnant we had little choice) was in the region of £150.  It really is a different world.

The pancake incident reminds me of another revelation from a some years ago.  One week, as we trawled around Sainsbury’s, we decided to try a tub of spread instead of our usual Anchor salted variety dairy product.  It was on offer and looked like a good buy.  Next morning, while my slice of hot toast waited in eager anticipation, I removed the top from the tub and was amazed to see that the spread left behind a perfect image of Christ on the underside of the lid.  Ming was thoroughly unimpressed and she turned to me with a look of disbelief across her face:

“I can’t believe it’s not Buddha!”

More picture/wordage based hilarity to follow shortly.

It’s Been a While…

06/11/2013

…since I’ve had the time or the inclination to scribble, so here are a few more thoughts from over here.

I’ll kick off with one of my favourite topics and share a few signs that have tickled me in one way or another.  Some while back, I spotted this over an optician’s premises:

ImageYou may have to look closely, but that rather adds to my amusement.  I think the sign maker could do with a new pair of spec’s.

On a completely different level, I was introduced to this writing the other day.  Again, look closely and see if you can read it.  (More at the end of this post if you want an explanation.)

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Just in the last few days I’ve seen several clothing-based writing curiosities.  Sadly, I didn’t have a camera to hand to record the evidence, but then again, I doubt I’d have got away with pointing my Canon at random women’s chests, so I’ll just give you the text:

ADIDDS – blazoned across a jacket

PARIS CONFERENOE – woman’s T-shirt

UNIOR JACK – T-shirt with a design featuring the British flag

FASHIOI WEEK – another woman’s T-shirt

Note to designers and printers: if you’re listening, gimme a shout and I’ll proofread at very favourable rates.  Ta.

One of the reasons I’ve been away from the blog is that we moved house again, so I’ve been resting* and rehydrating for the past month.  (*Ha! Ha!  Chance would be a fine thing.)  I don’t think I’ve ever sweated as much as I did on this latest move.  Thankfully, since moving in, the temperature has dropped quite considerably in Tainan and we’re now experiencing mid 20s most days rather than low 30s.  Anyway, the house has been refurbished and redecorated and we’re pretty much settled.  The only further comment I wanted to make is mirror-based.  Back in our apartment in Zhubei, we had a bathroom mirror with a built-in element to clear the glass if it got steamed up; here we have one in each bathroom.  No big deal, except that each and every one that I have come across (both in our home and those that I have seen elsewhere) still has the protective corner pieces attached, thus:

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Is it simply that the fitters are too bone idle to remove them, or is it some kind of superstition that prevents them from being binned?  Come to think of it, there are many things in Taiwan that remain forever in their protective wrapping.  Bikes are a great example, swathed as many are in bubble wrap around top tube, seat stays and chain stays for no apparent reason.  I’ve also seen plenty of television sets with the protective film left on the frame around the screen.  Just seems odd to me.  Locals – feel free to explain if you have the time, please.

More signs?  Go on then.  A cycle ride to the National Museum of Taiwan History** with the boy just last week (about 5 miles from here following the road along the river defences) rewarded me with these little gems:

This was on a piece of land covered in gravel.

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And this adjacent to a well-stocked pond/lake.

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Don’t be selfish!  Once that stone has been thrown, there’ll be nothing left for others, will there?***  Meanwhile, go fishing at your peril.  (It looks as though the stone throwing ban has encouraged some miscreant to nick the dots off some of the ‘i’s).

**Pretty amazing building – nice video, here:

*** There seems to be an issue with the use of English plurals in the Chinese-speaking world.  Christopher has books about cars, animals and vegetables called Car, Animal and Vegetable, respectively.  Don’t get me started on use of the definite article.

Chinese speakers/readers: please do let me know the difference between the two fishing signs.  Clearly, there are different levels of angling-based naughtiness.

Yet another level of visual amusement came to my attention when we were sat in a restaurant at the weekend.

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I made the assumption that this was an innovation dreamt up by this purveyor of sugary fizzy pop, but I then spotted this on a packet in the supermarket (disclaimer: hard to miss – big promotion).  For those of you who can’t read Chinese, think of a product that give you wings, but not of the Red Bull type.

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Sorry, but I’m going to have to finish with some more about life on the roads.

While stuck in a traffic jam a few weeks ago, I looked to my left to see this:

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Rest assured, it was a pretty big truck.  Sadly, it’s not an uncommon sight.  (I have the registration number if anyone from the law enforcement agencies happens to be taking an interest, but I shan’t be sat by the phone waiting for your call.)

While on the traffic/driving/transport theme, I suppose I must conclude with another observation/suggestion or two.  I genuinely do not understand what is going on in the minds of Taiwanese drivers and scooter riders, and having asked a few people why nobody will ‘wait’, the only response I get is “time is money”.  Well, frankly that just doesn’t make any sense because, almost without exception, the incidents of impatience I witness result in no meaningful gains in terms of time saved for the individual concerned, whilst frequently resulting in unnecessary time wasted for a third party (or several of the same).

One example.  There is a widespread practice here of vehicles turning across in front of oncoming traffic, rather than waiting for it to pass safely before moving.  The net result is that one vehicle goes on its way – all well and good for the selfish individual concerned – while several cars, trucks and scooters are forced to slow and/or stop before accelerating back up to speed once more.  Think of the wasted fuel and the resultant increase in pollution.  Where does the “time is money” mantra sit in this scenario?  It’s hideously selfish, inconsiderate and symptomatic of an utterly thoughtless mindset.  It’s also downright dangerous.  The thing is, it’s a collective national malaise.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, seems to care.  Let’s all put on a face mask and hope that everything will be okay.

Here’s a free suggestion for the government/highway authorities.  Sort out your traffic light system (I’m talking traffic sensitivity) and invest a few quid (sorry, $NT) in red light cameras and enforcement officers.  I reckon you could generate $billions in revenue which you could then divert to the education of drivers.  What with me being the eternal pessimist and all that, I’ll not be holding me breath, while actually holding my breath when stuck at yet another junction.

For those who bothered to stick with it, or those who skipped to the end (shame on you ! ;0) ), the Chinese-style writing = Can’s Book Shop.  Clever, innit?

Footnote: thinking about doing something on my favourite songs.  It’ll be an open-ended project, so check back from time to time.  Expect anything and everything, ranging from a bit of prog’ to a bit of Wham! with all sorts in between.

Taiwan Goes Quackers

03/10/2013

If you are in Taiwan at the moment, you can hardly have failed to notice that the nation is going ape about a duck.

I can’t really justify spending too much time on reporting this apparent mass hysteria, but I suppose it’s one of those so-called cultural happenings that warrant a few observations.

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Anyway, the Dutch conceptual artist, Florentijn Hofman, has been making a bit of a splash with this enormous yellow rubber duck.  It’s now in the port of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan; so, it seems, are most of Taiwan’s 23 million or so citizens.

I heard a piece on the radio the other day, effectively damning the work for its toxicity, what with all the heavy metals, PVC, blah, blah, blah.  Quite so, but I’d be rather more concerned about the enormous carbon footprint, or should I say carbon webbed-footprint, of this monster.  We went to take a look the other day.  We went in 3 cars.  We went on a boat around the harbour, belching out God knows how much diesel exhaust.  We then took 3 taxis to get to the dock side to get up close and personal.  We then took 3 taxis back to the cars.  Of course, we bought helium-filled duck balloons for the children.  We were just a handful among thousands of others doing pretty much the same thing on that particular morning.

I’m an art historian (of sorts) and I’m rather fond of sculpture, especially public sculpture.  I’m not really very confident that I could put a finger on the concept here.  As my wife put it so succinctly, in her best British English accent: “It’s just a bloody great plastic duck!”  Now, there was I thinking “It’s not even a bleedin’ mandarin duck!”  Now that would have been worth seeing.  Mr Hofman, are you listening?

I’m off to see me quack.

If you are unfamiliar with your ducks, here’s the beautiful mandarin:

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Be Carrefour What you Wishfour

23/09/2013

Some time ago, I posted a few images of things that tickle me out here.  I’ve gathered several more, so it’s time they were unleashed upon the world.  As ever, I’m not intent on mocking; indeed, as ever, I’m eternally grateful that any English is on display at all in/on shops, on the roads, at museums and galleries.  Without it, I’d really struggle.

We have a Carrefour just around the corner, so I spend quite a lot of time in there.  It’s a good place to watch out for this kind of thing:

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This also made me smile, since I thought the general idea was to try to eliminate MSG, not seek it out:

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I’m happy to support Carrefour as they are a major sponsor of the Tour de France.  Christopher is happy to support Carrefour as they provide shopping trolleys for his level of car obsession:

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Milk here is pretty expensive.  You’d think they’d spend some of the profits on employing a proofreader:

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To give this a bit of balance, now is a good point to shift and assert that it’s not only the French getting their Ps & Qs in a muddle.  A couple of doors away is a branch of that stalwart of British DIY superstores, B&Q.  It’s much more of a giggle here:

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I saw this next one and was reminded of a dreadful old joke. Why are there so many Chinese people living in a certain town, home of a famous public school, just north west of Wembley?  Why?  Because they arrive at Heathrow, jump in a cab and say “Harrow Mr Taxi Driver.”

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Apologies if anyone finds that offensive.

At Ming’s new University, (National Cheng Kung University, since you ask) I came across the best lavatory sign I’ve ever seen, coupled with the wackiest urinals:

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There must be a gag in there about taking a leek (or something), but I’m struggling, so fill in the gap for yourself if you’re feeling inspired.  I was, however, rather thrilled that the one and only Mr David Gedge recently re-tweeted the ‘busting for a pee’ pic, so I’ll take that as justification for throwing this in to enrich your lives.  A glorious, wonderful tune, and the only record I have ever pre-ordered:

Back to my favourite area, the permanent, rich vein of typos found anywhere, any time, with this classic from a mall boutique (inspired by Harold Steptoe, mefinks):

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Meanwhile, I am constantly amazed and amused by the mix of cultures on display, often in the most unlikely of places.  We went out for a drive a couple of months ago and stumbled across this large temple:

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A billion brownie points to anyone who can guess what was on display inside.  Toaist religious relics?  Ancient calligraphy?  Fresh local produce, perhaps, à la Harvest Festival?  How about some knitting and embroidery from the local equivalent of the WI?  Okay, what about a skip load of fireworks?

Not even close.  ‘ave this, oh ye of little imagination:

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There’s obviously so much more significance to Iron Man than you or I could ever conceive.

Since I’ve struck on something of a philosophical vibe, I’ll leave you with this to ponder.  Answers on a postcard, please:

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