Call me captain planet

It’s nearly midnight and I’ve just come back in from taking out the recycling, something that I always do in the dark, mainly because I don’t want the neighbours to see how much alcohol I drink. There is only so many times you can have a Christmas party before someone suggests you have a problem, especially when it’s May.

The environment is becoming a huge political hot potato, albeit one which was heated in a solar-powered oven made from mud. We are constantly being bombarded with messages of how little time we’ve got left and how we are on the cusp of Armageddon.

The straws

Don’t worry though everyone, it’s all going to be okay because we’ve banned the plastic straws.

These cardboard ones aren’t the answer though. Of all the materials that are suitable for being submerged underwater, cardboard would be way down that list. I’d like to say that these new straws sucked, but they don’t even do that. Ten seconds in a diet coke and it just gives up, it’s like trying to smoke a roll-up in the shower.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe we just have to put up with it, or I suppose we could drink directly from the glass, you know, like grown up’s do.

We need to have bigger changes than this, otherwise, we’ll be sat there on top of a skyscraper in fifty years’ time, tidal waves lapping at our feet, watching cattle float by like driftwood, sipping that same milkshake thinking, “Well I just don’t understand why we changed the straws?”

Extinction Rebellion

We have recently seen the rise of the protest group Extinction Rebellion.

The group were formed after founder members met at a Psychedelic Drugs retreat. That’s quite impressive. Most people who spend most of the day off their face can’t even organise a trip to the all-night garage, never mind a political movement.

Recently an anti-terror chief said that they should be treated as a terrorist organisation. Really? I’d like to see them try and radicalise some unsuspecting arts student:

“Oh yes, we started to notice his behaviour change. He would often wander around the house switching off lights and turning down the thermostat. He’d spend all day in his room, watching Greta Thunberg Speeches and just silently recycling. Then, two weeks later he totally flipped and tried to hijack that oil tanker with a gluten-free breadstick.”

Shamed into action

Like most things with the environment I think we need to be shamed into doing something, it’s the only way. That’s why a teenager like Greta is having such an impact. We feel embarrassed when our own kids make us look like morons, never mind someone else’s.

When I have a dental appointment, the day before I suddenly start caring about my teeth. I brush till my gums bleed, floss, gargle mouthwash; all so I don’t get told off by my dentist. Cleaning the house is the same. Some days I arrange for people to come and visit me, just so I have no choice but to get off my arse and do the hoovering. This is what we need to do for the environment.

“Right I’m going now, but I’ll be back on Friday to look at your environment, don’t let me down.”

We’d have it sorted in record time.

Our children

We are worried for the next generation. They are pumped full of guilt and fear, and so they should be, it’s partly their fault. Having a kid is terrible for the environment. For the first few years, all they do is consume food, energy, and resources. The amount of arts and crafts they churn out is an environmental disaster that could rival any oil spill.

Every day my three-year-old comes home with more things she’s made at playgroup. It’s a nightmare. I can’t throw it away because she’ll know it’s gone and I can’t recycle it because it’s just a congealed mess of glue, lollipop sticks, paper and glitter. My fridge door is straining at the hinges with the weight of this poorly executed emotional landfill. They are using up more resources than the US at the height of the industrial revolution.

“Look, Daddy, I’ve made you another picture of a sheep in dried pasta.”

It’s no wonder free school meals are in crisis. Stop sticking the stuff on paper and cook it!

I swear the things they make are getting bigger. It’s a conspiracy to stop you from throwing it all away. They started as A4 cards, then a painted plate. The week after it was a wooden spatula, by the end of term they’ll be sending them out the door with a sequin-covered surfboard.

My eldest daughter Olivia, is a vegetarian, at nine years old. She’s doing it both for ethical and environmental reasons. These dietary requirements are something my parents never had to deal with. At her birthday party this year it was a nightmare. We had two vegetarians, a vegan, someone who was wheat intolerant and a celiac. I don’t know where we’re having her party next year, probably Holland and Barret. It’ll just be sixteen bored kids, sitting there playing pass the parsley for three hours.

Disposable society

We live in a disposable society where we just endlessly consume and things cost more to repair than replace and that’s fundamentally wrong.

Our Tumble dryer broke recently, so I got in touch with the company:

“Don’t worry Mr Bennett for £15.99, a month, we can repair your tumble dryer and that will also cover you for all future problems.”

My life insurance is £8.99 a month. I told my wife Jemma, “Can you believe it darling, to repair this tumble dryer it’s going to be twice the price of my life insurance.” She looked at me and said, “Yeah, but the thing is, we couldn’t live without that tumble dryer.”

I wanted to repair it myself, I’m fairly practical, but it was impossible. The manufacturers don’t want you to. I couldn’t even get into the thing!

There are many screws that the designers could have used, ones that fit, say a conventional screwdriver. But no, my tumble dryer has a screw with a head on it that can only be turned by the toenail of a Komodo dragon! Not a flat-head, not a crosshead, this one is like a weird triangle. Who built this thing? The Illuminati?

Before we start trying to tackle bigger issues facing our planet, we need to have a change in our behaviour as a society not just as individuals. It needs to be a huge global effort in collective thinking; rather than being led by these huge companies who consistently look to put their profits ahead of the planet.

SB

Beeston FC closer than ever to being able to build new clubhouse

Congratulations to Beeston FC! The bees have secured almost £500,000 from the Premier League and Football Association towards a new clubhouse, but a further £50,000 is still needed to complete this project.

Beeston FC have been trying to raise money to build a clubhouse since we first starting covering them at the beginning of last year when they acquired a 99-year lease for a plot of land on Trent Vale road.

Since then, the club were unsuccessful in a bid to receive £10,000 from the Aviva Community Fund, but that hasn’t deterred them and after being successfully awarded this fund from the Premier League and FA, they are now closer than ever to getting there.

The club plan to raise the remaining money in a variety of different ways, including erecting plaques on a wall with the names of those who have donated towards the site’s construction.

“The supporter’s wall will be a mixture of individuals and businesses,” said club chair, Charlie Walker. “so far we have raised around £100 from this.

“We’re also collecting some memories that people have of playing at the site from over the years, as there have been lots of people playing football, hockey, cricket and tennis, so we’re hoping to have some photographs of these memories in the clubhouse.”

The clock is ticking for Beeston FC, who need to raise the remaining 50K within the next six months, otherwise, the money that they have been awarded will be withdrawn.

Charlie tells me that the club are making good progress towards making the total and are hoping that the support from a combination of businesses, banks, local authorities and the community will see them reach that £50,000 total.

“We received £3800 from the Co-op, as part of their local community scheme and £2000 pounds from the Bank of England. We’re also speaking to Broxtowe Borough Council and Nottinghamshire County Council to try and apply for money from them and we’re approaching local businesses to see if they can support us. We’ll also be running some events in 2020, so look out for those.”

2020 promises to be a big year for Beeston Football Club and Charlie is conscious of how rare this opportunity is for them and the wider community of Beeston.

“The clubhouse will mean that we can increase the size of the club so that more children, boys and girls will be able to play football in the years ahead. We’re also planning to start a second men’s team, an adult women’s team and a couple of disability teams, so, there’s going be a lot more opportunities to play football.

“We’re determined to get it over the line as we’ve come so far and we will never get this offer again.”

If you are interested in supporting the clubs efforts by having your own plaque, email trentvalesports@mail.com or telephone Beeston FC committee member, Sarah Green on 07976 299229.

Life is a cabaret, old friend

For many, the words ‘British Legion’ means a place that old soldiers can go to for a bit of company and a cheap pint. While that part may be true, the Legion in Beeston also means being entertained at a reasonable price. As four years ago, David Clifford, the former road manager of Nottingham’s Paper Lace and Bittersweet, together with his partner Anita opened the club for cabaret evenings. You can forget the end of the pier and novelty acts that made their way onto the stage in Peter Kay’s comedy series Phoenix Nights, David attempts and succeeds in attracting quality acts that people want to see for a very reasonable on the door price of £5, through his many contacts in the music industry.

David, with much help, charity and goodwill from people and companieshas transformed the inside of the nondescript building into a warm, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy a night out. Full Steam Ahead is a sponsor for instance. Some of the improvements have included LED lights for energy conservation, improved soundproofing to stop the neighbours complaining and stage lighting that originally came from Plessey.

The original use of the building hasn’t been lost, as there’s still an area dedicated to veterans of the Korean conflict and the bar is named Troopers, after the Paras. Although most members of the armed forces now tend to go to Chetwynd Barracks for their companionship.The Cabaret Club’s main audience are people in their 30s and 40s. There’s no age restriction either, so families are made most welcome.

“a warm, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy a night out.”

So what sort of entertainment is on offer? Tuesday evenings are set aside for line dancing, Wednesday’s are bingo nights, Beeston Camera Club meets there on a Thursday, while the cabaret nights are the first Friday in the month. There’s also music or comedy on a Saturday too. The venue can also be hired for private parties like weddings. And David has just opened a smaller room that can be used for meetings. Car parking isn’t a problem, as there’s enough space for 60 cars. The club currently has around 150 members and has a loyal following. David and Anita are always thinking of ways to improve the club, as they would hate to see it close.

For that first-hand experience, David invited me and my wife Gail along to see a show. The next cabaret night featured a Cliff Richard and Cher tribute bands. So I thought that would be a good one to choose. We arrived to a packed house who were enjoying the songs of Cliff and his backing band the Shadooz. Will Chandler does a fair impersonation of Harry Webb and tended to keep to a lot of his early back catalogue songs from the 1960s, so we were spared his latter tunes like ‘The Millennium Prayer’. Kelly Marie as Cher came on next, dressed in a similar costume that she appeared in the ‘Turn Back Time’ video. And no, it wasn’t ‘that’ Kelly Marie, who had a hit in 1980 with “Feels Like I’m In Love’.

At the break, a cheque presentation was made to Breast Cancer Care of £620. This was raised by the club, as one of its members Jayne Walker was diagnosed with the disease four years ago but is now free after going through 16 months of therapy. I had a quick chat with Jayne, who comes from Hucknall and she really wants to get the word out about the charity and its work and was genuinely pleased that the club had raised so much through a charity evening held there earlier this year.

There’s a real family atmosphere to the club as members have their birthdays celebrated. While we were there Cliff led the singing of Happy Birthday to one member.

With a change of costume and Cliff was on again for some more songs to entertain the happy audience. I wondered whether Cher would make another appearance, and she did. Well, Kelly did, but as herself. And was something of a rock goddess. She did an amazing version of Guns & Roses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, which went down a storm with the audience.

So if you fancy having somewhere new to go, then why not give the Legion on Hallcroft a go. You never know, you might decide to become a member.

If you want to know more about the club and what it can offer, then give David a call on 07917 773003.

CF

 

I Am Beeston: William Charles Wheatley MBE

The name of William ‘Bill’ Wheatley may not be known to that many Beestonians, but to those that do, he means a great deal to them. My only time of meeting Bill was when I went to his house to chat with him as a subject for the ongoing ‘I Am Beeston’ project. Although I managed to take his photograph, for some long-forgotten reason the interview never took place. Now, of course, it is too late, as Bill sadly passed away in June. So as a way of recompense to him and his family, here is a potted history of his life and his many achievements.

William was born on 31st October 1929 on Moorbridge Road in Stapleford. He was the oldest of four children. Archie his father worked at Stanton Ironworks, while his mum Elsie was what is known as being in service, before becoming a wife, parent and homemaker. When Bill was eight, the family moved to Stanton-by-Dale. At 15, Bill got a job at the Ironworks as an apprentice electrician. National Service arrived when Bill reached 21.

Having knowledge of electrical matters, Bill served in the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) where he instructed recruits on radar systems, at their base in Arborfield, Berkshire.

When he was demobbed in 1952, Bill specialised as an electrical engineer in mining and petrochemical sites. He became a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers and a Chartered Engineer (C Eng MIE). He retired in 1992, after being an engineer for 50 years.

Life changed for Bill when he married his wife Cynthia Chapman in 1957. Bill met Beeston born Cynthia through his involvement in the local Methodist Church on Victory Road. They enjoyed 53 years of marriage, living in the same newly built bungalow on Trent Road in the Rylands before she died in July 2010. The couple had two daughters; Kathryn and Helena. Bill became involved in the church at a very young age, through firstly becoming a choirboy, then as a bell ringer. He loved the Methodist Church nearly as much as Cynthia. as he was involved in the church’s many activities such as teaching, leading the Sunday School, organising a boy’s club and the Christian Endeavour, which aimed at helping young people to find God. In 1963, Bill helped to create the Midland Camping Venture (MVC). This group provided week-long summer holidays for young people and gave them an opportunity to get involved in various outdoor activities. It proved to be very popular, as thousands of young people signed up for these camps. Bill also became a local preacher and looked after the Victory Road church.

But religion wasn’t the only thing that kept Bill busy. After seeing shire horses as a child, Bill found his love of all things nature. He learnt to recognise the calls of different birds and know lots about plants. He even sold rose bushes to Wheatcroft’s. In 1996, he and the late Keith Corbett started the Beeston Wildlife Group, which is very popular with wildlife enthusiasts, and became Chair, after Keith’s passing eleven years later. He was also heavily involved in Attenborough Nature Reserve and other local conservation projects.

His community work was formally recognised in 2008, when he took a trip to Buckingham Palace and received his MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for Voluntary Service to the Community in Beeston, Nottinghamshire’. Bill described this as one of his proudest moments. Then in 2012, Bill was given the Freedom of the Borough of Broxtowe. A fitting tribute to such a remarkable man.

 

Away from the church, nature conservation and helping others, Bill enjoyed reading, with his favourite novel being Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider With Rosie’, possibly whilst listening to some jazz music. He supported Derby County and was a fan of motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi. He also liked steam trains and a bit of plane spotting at RAF Waddington. Bill also spent the best part of 25 years learning Spanish, and at the age of 79, drove for several hours, so he could do some birdwatching.

An inspirational man by any standards. I went to his service of thanksgiving at Beeston Methodist Church on June 22nd. It was a sad, but joyous affair, with many people relating stories and fond memories about their connection with Bill. A lot were from the days of the MVC. This was followed up with a later meeting that day at the Attenborough Nature Centre.

With many thanks to Kathryn Randall
and Heidi Tarlton-Weatherall for the information and photographs.

CF

 

 

 

The gym that’s adding some muscle to Beeston

In an age of shrinking attention spans where people are trying to find new ways of keeping fit whilst having fun doing it, going to the gym is something which you may find repetitive. It often becomes something you force yourself to do without getting any real enjoyment from it, meaning that many will begin to go less or even stop going altogether. 

But there is one method of fitness which seems to keep people interested.

If you regularly lift weights or know people who do, then you would have probably heard of something called CrossFit. Far from being a new sport, CrossFit’s origins trace back to the start of the millennium with an American personal trainer called Greg Glassman, who helped open the first CrossFit gym in Seattle.

CrossFit is described on its official website in three steps. The workouts, including the varied exercise routines such as weightlifting and aerobic activities, the lifestyle, such as the nutritional part of the sport and finally the community, perhaps the most unique part of CrossFit which helps to define its popularity.

Beeston has its own CrossFit gym on Humber Road called Urban Outlaws, founded by Ash Fowler and Louis French who found out about his method of fitness training a decade ago.

“I was looking online at Olympic weightlifting and I stumbled across CrossFit,” said Ash.

“CrossFit has 33% of Olympic weightlifting in it and when you start searching online it starts popping up all over the place on social media, so we decided to carry that into our training.

“Me and Louis, will train together and throw in the CrossFit style movements alongside our Olympic weightlifting as well. That’s really how we started getting into it. We self-taught ourselves.”

CrossFit is more structured than your regular gym-going experience.

You may be wondering if CrossFit is for you but Ash says anyone can try it no matter what their physique is.

“CrossFit appeals to everyone. You could be a 16-year-old lad that’s trying to find a fitness method or our oldest member who is 72. Anyone can do this, any size, any shape. Strong has no size.”

So what will you get from CrossFit compared to going to a regular gym? Ash tells me it’s all about the detail.

“There isn’t really something out there that caters for your progression like this. If you go to a normal gym class everyone lifts the same, it’s very generic and there’s no progression whereas here, everything’s based on percentage; what you can lift compared to what I can lift.”

Ash’s fellow founder and owner Louis mentions that CrossFit is the perfect base for young people to develop if they want to become professional athletes in the future.

“Essentially, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning programme. If you’re learning CrossFit as a young person, you can learn how to lift weights and use your body to do gymnastic movements. Going forward, you can apply those to other sports because you’re more agile and coordinated.

“When I was at school, I was never particularly fit or strong. If you were to speak to any of my peers who knew me, they would never have thought I would be someone who is very fit and capable of the stuff I’m doing now.

“If I’d been doing CrossFit since I was at school, I think I could have had a lot of options in terms of what I could have done as a sport, whether it was being a rugby player, footballer, gymnast, weightlifter, anything, it gives you such a good base, because you practice everything. I think going forward for CrossFit, it would be good to be able to get it into schools,” said Louis.

Detailed instructions are given out during one of the sessions. (Pic credit: Urban Outlaws)

Of course, for such an intense mode of fitness, there will always be a risk of injury, something which Urban Outlaws are prepared for.

Attila is a manual therapist from Hungary who has been working at the gym for over a year. “In my role, I treat any kind of musculoskeletal problems and sports injuries,” he says.

“Often the injuries people get from CrossFit are pulled muscles or joint pain. 80/90% of the issues are tight and stiff muscles because of the training, but massages and stretching are a really good way to solve this. Just like in any sport, you can get injured here as well and it depends on the level of your training and how hard you push yourself.”

CrossFit is fast, demanding and intense but it’s community along with the opportunities it gives you to develop, make it a uniquely popular way of keeping fit.

Anyone interested can book a free taster session with Urban Outlaws at https://www.theurbanoutlaws.co.uk/contact

IS

Dark Nights, Bright Lights

It’s autumn! Time to get out the woolly sweaters, hand-knitted socks and indulge in some cosy indoor activities. On bright, brisk days it feels good to get the heart pumping with a walk round the nature reserve or Highfields Park but as daylight dwindles and the heating kicks in, it’s wonderful to get back inside.

In contrast to the long summer days, where blue skies hang around until way past tea time and evenings extend outdoors, autumn nights are for creating a cosy atmosphere and snuggling under a homemade quilt, watching a film or reading a book. Part of creating the perfect environment for a cosy evening in has to be the lighting. We are very much a household that only turns on ‘the big light’ in cases of emergency, you know like a lost remote, so it’s important to have the right kind of lighting where it’s needed.

There are many different styles of lamp on the market these days to suit all tastes and budgets, we are literally spoiled for choice! However, something simple that will do the job suits me, and that’s why Mark Lowe’s contemporary pieces caught my eye a while back. Apart from being made from sustainable wood, which supports an environmental ethos, there is also the opportunity to personalise a lamp with a choice of wood, coloured flex and shade so you feel like you are part of the creative process.

Fellow Beestonian Mark, was born here and has stayed local to the area, apart from his university years in at Loughborough University where he gained a degree in furniture design. He lives and works out of a home workshop in Beeston, having spent his early years working for a lighting company that did not at all reflect his current tastes. Mark has always considered the role of lighting in the home as an important one. After leaving the industry for a while and pursuing a career in teaching design and technology, Mark’s been drawn towards the ‘honest design’ of the late 19th century Arts and Crafts movement and Bauhaus.

Although Mark has enjoyed a decade of teaching and inspiring his students to experiment with their own ideas and designs, he has continued to work on his own – feeding the need to have a creative outlet. He designed his first lamp around four years ago, an adjustable lamp for use at home which is just perfect for a reading corner. Tall and elegant, the original design has undergone many modifications, but the principle design has remained the same. The frank use of visible construction adds interest to the simple lines, and the coloured cord provides a colour pop that transforms simple into eye-catching in one vivid streak.

Mark tells me that as production has increased and designs have evolved, his wife Marianne has brought her own creative flair to the range. She sourced the coloured flex and shades that complement the designs so well and he continues to collaborate with her as new products are conceptualised on the pages of his sketch pad. The range now boasts a fixed standard lamp, table lamp, coat stand and coat racks in ash and oak with vibrant discs – a nod to the colour variations that can be added to the lamps. Subtle or statement? You decide, but with their beautiful simplicity, each piece would slot well into any tastefully finished room.

Since launching the business in 2017, Mark has been keen to get his products out into the wider world, and in June of this year they had their first stand at the Handmade in Oxford Show. He also tells me about a successful alliance with Long Eaton upholsterers John Sankey Furniture, which resulted in a selection of Mark’s lamps being installed to complement their sumptuous sofas in the Tunbridge Wells showroom, along with some quality publicity photos.

As I type up this article, his Facebook newsfeed tells me that Mark is being filmed at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, Manchester, a handpicked selection of over 160 designer makers. We hope they appreciated your beautiful designs as much as we do at The Beestonian Mark!

You can see the full Mark Lowe range on the website www.marklowe.co.uk and follow him on Facebook www.facebook.com/marklowe.co.uk/ and Instagram @marklowelighting

DU

Scotty’s Soap Box: Halloween Special

Now is the time of year our streets will be teaming with youngsters, all wearing costumes and face paint, marauding through the local community, angrily making their demands. No, I’m not talking about the next protest from Extinction Rebellion; I’m referring, of course, to Halloween.

I’m baffled as to why it seems to be such a big deal these days? I think it’s the closest us Brits get to having an affinity with the Americans, apart from our growing obesity problem and embarrassment with our political leaders. It’s a major feature on the calendar now. The kids get excited like it’s Christmas and it nearly rivals Easter when it comes to the calorie count.

When I was a kid back in the 1980s Halloween wasn’t even a thing. I can only remember going trick or treating a few times. The first time was when I was about three years of age, a mere amateur in the game. My parents took a photo of the occasion. I was there sporting a massive black bin bag, with skeleton bones crudely drawn on the front in Tippex. I looked like a walking ISIS flag. I was wearing my father’s wellingtons as they were black and presumably, my Fireman Sam ones didn’t have the required scare factor. I was sat in my Batman go-kart and my poor dad was pulling me around the streets with a rope. I think I was the only Trick or Treater to be chauffeur-driven.

The second time I was about 12, which in trick or treater years is approaching retirement. I was with a friend and went trick or treating around his estate. It was a strange night. The only people to answer the door were his parents, his grandma and one of his highly religious neighbours, who gave us a little note of some bible scripture, warning us against dabbling with the occult. My mate ate it as he thought it might be some sugar paper, it wasn’t but he’s now a fully qualified vicar so it was certainly laced with something.

They even have zombie walks through town centres now. Hundreds of people, walking with a vacant stare, moaning and groaning. I’ve seen it in Nottingham many times, although not exclusively on Halloween.

I often wonder if trick or treating is different in really posh areas. The kids would probably only be able to do two houses as it would take half an hour to walk up the driveways. They’d all be dressed in designer Halloween costumes, a little off the shoulder gothic number by Gucci, with a swan slung over each shoulder and they wouldn’t say trick or treat, it would be “Hoodwink or delicacy?”

Unless it’s Green and Blacks 80% organic fairtrade chocolate, they’d not accept it and the tricks would be a little different too, something more in-keeping with the area. “I say sir, haven’t you heard, house prices here are set to plummet by 5%!”

I have two children, nine and three, strange names but easy to remember. They both love Halloween. At my eldest daughters’ school last year for Halloween they were allowed to go in fancy dress, she said to me, “Daddy I want to go as something really scary.” So I had a think about it and sent her as an Ofsted inspector.

We don’t send them out on their own trick or treating, it’s a different world now. So, we have to accompany them like a pair of weird bouncers. Waiting at the bottom of the driveways and mouthing an embarrassed “sorry” as they storm into our neighbour’s hallways to mug them of all the Haribo they have.

The street I live on really embraces Halloween, because the demographic is mainly young families. It started out quite low-key, a couple of pumpkins, maybe a cobweb here and there. A morning at Costa and a WhatsApp group later and its now Grand Designs meets Friday the 13th. It’s a competition in one-upmanship. We’ve got gravestones in gardens, smoke machines and spooky music on Bluetooth speakers. Last year one resident had the idea of putting a life-size dummy of a killer clown in the front seat of their people carrier. It was a nice touch until one child had a panic attack. I think they are still in therapy now.

I don’t know where this madness is going to end. I wouldn’t be surprised if my wife tries to convince me to bury myself in the garden, with nothing but a paper straw to breathe through. She’d tell the children I was working away and then on Halloween night, as soon as the first bars of Michael Jacksons “Thriller” are blasted across the garden, I would emerge from the soil like one of the Living Dead.

Towards the end of the evening, we tend to get the stragglers coming, to pick off the last of the sweets. These are the kids who are too old for the trick or treating game. The ones who have worn the tread on the tyres, jaded old hacks who should know better. The cut-off point is when The One Show intro music starts, everyone knows that. Once the pumpkin is extinguished it’s over. Yet they still come, all charged up on E-numbers, mobile phones lighting their faces like low budget ETs and hammer the doorbell. I expect the reason they were late is because some of them are old enough to be working at Subway and they needed to finish their shifts first.

The carving of the pumpkin is something I try to involve the children in. It’s a calmer, more traditional taste of Halloween. The kids try and carve, but ultimately, they get bored. They start off with such big ideas, “I’m going to carve Harry Potter’s face into this one Daddy!”, “I’m going to do a full-scale picture of Hogwarts in mine Daddy!” this all fades away at record speed when they realise how difficult it is to cut into and all we end up with is two pumpkins with a glory hole in them.

This years Halloween will be very different. I won’t be able to celebrate it as I am performing my tour show “Leap Year” (tickets available at www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk/tour.html yes this is a plug) in Amersham, Hertfordshire.

Let’s hope that it’s a treat for me and not a trick where no one turns up. Or worse than that, one person turns up, in fancy dress as the grim reaper.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.

‘Zombie Fungus’ Controls the Minds of Insects

It’s Halloween and there have been some spooky goings-on at the Attenborough Nature Reserve. Eerie ‘pig-like’ screams from water rails in the reedbeds, tawny owls hooting as they proclaim ownership of their woodland territory, but most scarily, zombies lurking in the undergrowth!

Whilst this sounds like the plot of a b-list horror movie, the actions of a fungus have made zombies very real at Attenborough.

Fungi are one of the most important groups of organisms to be found on the Nature Reserve. Over 450 species have been identified at Attenborough and most of the species can be seen in the autumn. Fungi do a wonderful job of breaking down dead and decaying matter, returning the nutrients back into the soil. However, there is a particular group of fungi which have a very sinister strategy for survival.

The so-called ‘Zombie Fungus’, Entomophthora, is one such fungus and the effects of which have been seen in the late summer and autumn.

The so-called ‘Zombie Fungus’, Entomophthora.

The fungus uses a special mind control technique to take advantage of insects in order to help it spread. Just one microscopic germinated spore (akin to seeds in plants) ingested by an insect is enough to infect the host with this pathogenic organism.

Once inside the body of the host, the fungus grows rapidly. Digesting its guts and internal organs. The mycelium of the fungus, a mass of branching thread-like hairs or roots, then spreads to an area of the fly’s brain that controls behaviour. The fungus forces the host to land or climb up to the top of a tall plant or tree.

The reason for this is that like most other types of fungi, the zombie fly fungus needs to get its spore-bearing structures as high as possible in order to complete its lifecycle. The higher up the insect, the more likely the microscopic spores are to get caught in air currents when they are released and will, therefore, spread over greater distances.

The final act of the fungus is to get the insect to assume a position that aids in dispersal of the spores. In the case of flies, the wings are held spread open and the legs stiffen to raise the fly’s abdomen into the air. Just five to seven days after becoming infected, the fly dies.

Fungus Hoverfly.

By this stage, the growing fungus begins to burst out of every crack in the insect’s armour and it becomes visible for a couple of days before the spores are released and the fungal spores ‘seek out’ their next victim.

Surprisingly there are over 70 species of this group of fungi in the UK. Whilst Entomopthora muscae is the most commonly encountered species and infects flies like hoverflies, others use a similar technique to affect mosquitoes, ants and even earwigs.

Why not scan through the path-side vegetation on your next visit to Attenborough and see if you can spot a ‘zombie insect’ for yourself!

TS

 

Motherhood: Halloween

In our house, Halloween is as big as Christmas. Costumes are decided during the end of summer sales, our amazing porch (tiny front window directly onto the road in front of our small terraced house) is decked in crunchy burnt-orange leaves, pumpkins and skulls, neighbours avoid us until mid-November.

Previous costumes themes have included Stranger Things, The X Files, The Walking Dead, and weirdly, Parks and Rec. This year we have decided on Fleabag as our muse. I’m Fleabag (of course) my husband, despite being 6’2 and bald, is the sexy priest, and our little girl is Hilary the guinea pig. We pride ourselves on having a 0% success rate for people guessing who we are.

Our little family are all huge horror fans. My favourite film as a child was the 18-rated Troll, which we rented so many times from the video shop that the guy who owned it eventually gave it to us for free because the tracking was wearing out. My daughter loves Goosebumps and is sniffing around my old Point Horror collection. My husband likes anything with fighting and blood in it.

We are natural Halloween enthusiasts. Part of the attraction for me has always been the subversive nature of celebrating a pagan ritual, a two-finger salute at religious holidays and a chance to run around in the dark demanding people give you stuff for free.

My fondest memory as a kid was of my parents unrolling bin bags and my mum getting crafty with scissors and sellotape. I was a witch every year for 8 years. When I was about 6 my dad took me trick or treating and told me to beware of witches lurking around corners, just as two unwitting students came around the bend in our road and through my screams of pure terror I felt that first rush of white-hot fear, and instantly knew that being scared was awesome. My daughter is the same. She will beg me to make her jump or tell her a scary story, to the point that she’s exhausted herself with screams and laughter. I’ll tell her stories of working as a scare actor in attractions around London, and of the people who fainted or threw up or begged to leave. It was the best few years of my 20s.

Whatever you do this Halloween, don’t be a scare-scrooge and avoid the doorbell. Grab a bag of pound shop sweets and tell the kids they look awesome, they will remember it forever. Or do what we did and set up a smoke machine in the hallway, and terrify the living souls out of the local children by answering the door dressed as a dead Mulder and Scully. You’ll remember that forever too.

DL

Devlish Delights

You might not be feeling much like an ice cream at this time of year, but then I did see a young man walking back home from the shop on Priory Island the other night, unwrapping a Magnum with the gleeful enthusiasm of an eight-year old that’s just paid a visit to the ice cream van.

Seeing as it is the time of year where cavorting with the devil might be actively encouraged if you do fancy a 99 or a something frozen on a stick, you might want to consider picking one up from El Diablo’s Ice Creams. Spawned from the imagination of a Beeston artists mind, driving towards you surrounded by the flames of Hell’s own fire, who would not succumb to the temptation of an Apocalippo, its headlined iced treat?

We love Matt Plowright’s often surreal and sometimes haunting artwork. When I questioned him about the inspiration for this particular creative masterpiece, he told me, “I envisaged Satan as an ice cream seller, with his own van. This juxtaposition of the heat of hell and a cool ice cream on a hot summer’s day, seemed ridiculous and laughably unlikely. I was inspired by the continental sounding names I had seen on ice cream vans, perhaps ‘Signor Whippy’ a Peter Kay creation. Also, I fondly recall Mr Benn for the aesthetic and the Mighty Boosh for the humour.”

I can’t help but be curious as to the music that would chime from deep inside its bloody guts, would it be the theme tune from the film Halloween or something even more sinister? Would some other evil being need to stand in for Satan when he had other important satanic business to attend to, and who might that be? One thing is for sure, I don’t think I would be asking for the red and green syrup…

You will find more of Matt’s artwork on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ PLOWZart/ and www.facebook.com/rodgertheprawn/ on Instagram at Matt Plowright and at his Beeston home studio. Please contact Matt via email at mattplowz@yahoo.co.uk to commission a piece of work or if you can provide a space to exhibit his vast collection of work. Matt will also be taking part in this year’s Art Trail.

DU

 

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