February 24, 2016

Struth! Robert Louis Stevenson's birthday gift

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis wonders if anyone has ever given a gift so unique as that bestowed by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson upon a 12-year-old American girl in Samoa in 1891.

For his gift to her was his birthday.

In the hope of improving his poor health Stevenson, his wife Fannie Osbourne and her son Lloyd from a previous marriage had gone to Samoa after living in Sydney for a short time, and there met America's local Land Commissioner, Mr Henry C. Ide – who confided how sad his daughter Annie was that she had never had a real birthday because she had been born on Christmas Day.

So Stevenson penned her a letter commiserating as to how she had been "denied the consolation and profit of a Proper Birthday," and added this deed:

I do hereby transfer to A.H. Ide, All and Whole of my rights and privileges in the 13th day of November, formerly my birthday, now, hereby, and henceforth, the birthday of the said A. H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise and enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine raiment, eating of rich meats and receipt of gifts, compliments and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors.

… and I charge her to use my said birthday with moderation and humanity, the said birthday not being so young as it once was and having carried me in a very satisfactory manner since I can remember.

I hereto set my hand and seal this 19th day of June in the year of grace eighteen hundred and ninety-one.

- Robert Louis Stevenson.

Struth! Hotel lost and found reveals bizarre finds

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says a recent meeting of hoteliers in England decided they'd need a book the size of a metropolitan telephone directory to list the bizarre range of items guests had left in their hotel's rooms.

For in just 12 months they included an urn with the ashes of one man's mother-in-law, a blow-up, anatomically well-endowed sheep, a live 2-metre snake in a parrot cage, and such bodily accessories as staring glass eyes, false arms and legs, hearing aids, and countless sets of false teeth soaking in everything from glasses of wine to, in one case, the hotel's toilet disinfectant.

A live rabbit with a leather collar and walking-lead around its neck was found cowering in one room, a pet tarantula spider in a round glass fish tank in another, and in one hotel's garage an overlooked thoroughbred race-horse was found tied up after a local race meeting that had been held three days before.

And after a week one sheepish guest returned to a country town's budget hotel that was popular with prostitutes, to claim his forgotten car keys – for a $325,000 Porsche.

Staff also found a 2-metre working model of a helicopter left in one pub room, a police car siren connected to a 12V battery in another… and a life-size dummy of comedian, actor and TV presenter, Sir Lenny Henry in yet another.

Hoteliers said they couldn't even begin to estimate the number of sex toys left after one-night stands, and all agreed that the most-often left items were phone chargers… last year in just one major chain alone 42,000 were left plugged into power points by forgetful guests.

Jane Bednall, from Holiday Inn, said: "It's quite unbelievable just how much is left behind by our guests each year. The phone chargers would easily stretch across the English Channel.

"Most items are not re-claimed and after six months we donate anything of value to local charities."

[] PHONE chargers are the most-often left items in English hotel rooms, an amazing 42,000 of them last year in just one major hotel chain alone.

February 08, 2016

Struth! Notting Hill movie park bench secret


IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says there's a park bench in Perth's Queens Gardens that looks like it could be any old-style bench in any gardens in any part of the world.

But this one has fame on its side, if not many visitors are actually aware, for a history that's both equally famous and sad.

Famous because it was the park bench on which Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant talked love in the 1999 romantic comedy Notting Hill.

THE park bench from the 1999 romantic comedy, Notting Hill –
 now a "treasure" for Perth's Queens Gardens with its history that's
 both richly famous and sad. (ParksPhotography)
And sad because a Perth man subsequently bought the bench after the film had creamed the box office, and gave it as a birthday gift to his girlfriend – and one day when they sat on it, proposed to her.

Unfortunately for him his plea was rebuffed, the relationship ended… and he finished up with the bench, which he decided to give to the Gardens, so that with its history it could be enjoyed by others.

Now considered something of a Gardens "treasure" it still has the words carved onto it from the film: "For June who loved this garden, from Joseph who always sat beside her."

The donor insisted that despite the value of his gift to the Gardens his identity always remain secret, the only clue to he and the lady who rejected his hand in marriage being "Rodd & Nicole 2002," etched behind the bench's top rail.

February 01, 2016

Struth! World's scariest airport

WHEN their Dutch administrators told them that an airstrip on their tiny Caribbean Island of Saba was "an impossibility," the locals took-to and hand-built this one themselves. (Wikipedia)
IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that those who have done it say that landing by plane on the tiny Netherlands Antilles island of Saba in the Caribbean is the most-hair-raising you'll encounter anywhere, somewhat akin they'll tell you, to landing on an aircraft carrier.

Because at just under 400 metres the airstrip is the shortest commercial landing field in the world, it's got steep cliffs dropping immediately into the sea at both ends, an equally deep and sheer drop close to one side, and a towering mountain near to the other side.

And then there's the wind…

And bizarrely when the Dutch government said it couldn't build them an airstrip the 1,850 Sabans decided to do the job themselves, hand clearing the only level spot on the tiny 13sq km blob (5sq miles) – just as they'd hand-built their own road around the island when Dutch engineers told them a road through that mountainous terrain was "an impossibility" too.

Just one aircraft flies the 12-minute route from neighbouring St Maarten Island several times a day, Winair's little 16-seat Twin Otter whose pilots agree that landing and coming to an abrupt stop on Saba so as not to run off the other end, is "something of an art form."

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