Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Few Non Lethal Weapons

Aunt Harpy is staying in a secret location somewhere nearby. She will not tell Mum where it is, just in case MI5 come and find her for interrogating purposes. This is mad and also slightly annoying as we do not know when she will turn up and cannot prepare ourselves for a visit by being out.

Anyway, Dexter came round to show me his tennis racquet. His Dad bought it off e-bay and it used to belong to five times Wimbledon champion, Bjorn Borg. So it is a bit worn out. We go into the back garden and I get out Mum's old bat from her shed but we cannot find a ball. This is a problem, so we look for other things to hit. We find cat poo, a mouldy apple and a dead baby bird. The cat poo shatters into cat poo rain and the mouldy apple does not even make it to the racquet. The dead bird bounces the best but soon falls apart. So we then have to fight each other with fallen branches until Dexter gashes his arm on the end of my stick and breaks it. We stop and ponder our rubbish weapons and think about ones that do not produce so much blood.

Here are a few:

1. Fast setting glue. This could be like the stuff Spiderman uses and shoots out of his hands.

Instant banana peel. This is where you make the road so slippery nothing can stay upright. There might be a few problems trying to get people off the super-slippery roads though. They would probably be all over the place trying to escape. You might have to use something like...

. Instant stiffening powder to cut down on flailing. Then you could use a giant shovel pusher and shove them into custody. Once everyone had stopped laughing.

. Knock out gas or dart. Trials of these were carried out at Porton Down. They used a drug called 'apomorphine'. Something must have gone a bit wrong because they stopped the trials saying there was, 'an unacceptably high risk of death'. This is not good if you are just trying to stop a bingo night getting out of hand or somesuch.

. Capture nets. These could explode into the air in thin coils of wire covered in glue. Then they land on people and hold them down.

All of these are actual ideas from actual scientists being paid money. I think you could use modified stick insects to crowd control people. You load their legs with glue and shoot them at people. They scream and flail but the stick insects stick to their heads or wherever. And if this is not enough then the stick could inject a dose of knockout gloop from its mouth parts.

I do not expect anyone will ask me but if the PM telephones me again at least I will have something good to tell him.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Geroge And Me Have Things To Talk About

Anyway, we are having a visit from Grandpa Jack' s sister called Hatty. She is even more Irish than Grandpa Jack because she actually lives in Ireland all the time. We have never met her but Grandpa Jack says she speaks english and likes to boss people around and tell them what is going wrong in their lives and how much better her life is. She does not travel very often because she does not like to fly but Grandpa Jack says all witches like flying (ha ha). Grandpa Jack calls her a harridan and a harpy and he is going on holiday while she is in the country. He is afraid of her.

Dad is hiding in the cellar with his teeth collection when the front door bells rings and rings and does not stop ringing until I open the door. I stop a gasp. An old woman is there. She is like a human stick insect, all thin and long and sticky but with strange hairy clothes on, the colour of sick. She has grey hair barging out of her head like it is having a noisy dance party. She looks down at me through really thick glasses.
'To be sure, you are taller on the telephone, Dr Marshall,' she says and her thin lips snap together like a purse. 'I would not be putting my teeth in your hands, I think.'
'That's my Dad,' I explain. 'He is bigger than me and actually older and he has a beard as well.'
She stalks past me and hands me her hairy jacket. It is so furry, I am worried it is going to bite me. I throw it in the cupboard under the stairs - just in case.
'I will be taking five sugars in my tea and not one granule more. Where is your dear mother George?'
'Mum's name is Daphne,' I tell her, 'not George.'
She laughs like I have made a big joke.
'I must say I expected you to be a little more...' she pauses and adjusts her glasses. '...more like a baby.'
'George is the baby,' I say, 'I am Wilf and I am 9.'
'Your mother did not inform me of another child in the house!' she screeches. 'Anyway, you are too small to be nine years of age. My Derek was a good five foot ten at your age and strong as great big giant.'
'I am not small,' I say, 'I am the 4th tallest in my class and I am very strong.'
'Oh, Aunt Hatty!' says Mum. 'How are you?' George is squirming in her arms going red. I KNOW what he is doing.
'This must be George at last,' says Aunt Harpy. 'I will take him now and look him over.' She grabs him and George smiles. 'See, he loves me, all babies and small children love me - it's a gift I have. I am like a goddess to my grandson.'
'How is Peter?' asks Mum.
'Six foot four and still growing,' says Great Aunt Harpy, looking at me. 'Unlike some people.'
At that moment, George lets out a massive stinky poo. It goes on and on and he goes purple in he face. I am sure he winks at me.
'I think I'll take that tea now,' says Aunt Harpy, sniffing madly. 'You may have the baby back.'
'I will take him,' I say. 'George and me have things to talk about.'
Baby poo has an up side.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fascinating Inventor No.4 - Edward Harrison, Inventor of the Small Box Respirator 1869 - 1918

My best friend Dexter comes round. He stands on the doorstep and sniffs.
'Hello,' I say for starters, and, 'come in.'
He shakes his head and carries on standing and sniffing like a complete gerbil.
'Your house smells,' he announces. He leans forward. 'You smell as well.'
'What of?' I ask. And, 'so what?'
'Baby poo, you whiff of baby poo.' He pulls a face.
'CLOSE THE FRONT DOOR!' Dad yells from the kitchen, 'ALL THE AIR IS ESCAPING!'
I picture Dad on the floor, flapping his legs and gasping for air, like a goldfish accidentally tipped out of the tank. I am about to amuse Dexter with this exciting image when he pipes up.
'Can't stay.' And he runs off.
I close the front door and sniff the imprisoned air. I shake my head sadly. Dexter is right - the waft of poo is everywhere. And it took my best friend to tell me.
It makes me think of the little known inventor hero, Edward Harrison.

" To save our armies from poison gas he have his last full measure of devotion."

These are words on a war memorial to him. I think they mean that he worked himself to death. And although Mum and Dad are always saying that they work far too hard and also, what did my last slave die of and I will be the death of them; I do not think they really understand what working yourself To Death is like. Edward Harrison did it and it is fatal as well as being absolutely heroic. Because Mum and
Dad definitely did not die striving to design and get into mass production the first gas masks or small box respirators.

Apparently, he and other chemistry heroes went into sealed rooms full of gas, to test the mask. This is mad but VERY brave and of course absolutely fatal.

And, although the Prime Minister of Great Britain, did use the telephone to tell me to go to bed, he did not speak to The Parents and offer his admiration, condolences and the revelation that he had decided to promote them to Brigadier-general in charge of all chemical warfare. Which is a big relief actually. By the time Winston Churchill wrote to Edward Harrison, to say, bother and he was going to give him all of those things - he was dead. By the time the French got round to giving him a medal called the Legion d'honeur, he was dead. By the time the war ended, Edward Harrison was dead but lots and lots of men (and dogs, see pic) who might have died, did not.

A letter from Winston Churchill to Edward Harrison's widow, alongside a medal and a photo of Harrison

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Fascinating Inventors No. 3 - Lord Baden Powell

Fascinating Inventors No. 3 – Lord Baden Powell, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (1857 – 1941)

Baden-Powell invented the boy-scout movement but before that he was a grown-up tracker- scout in the Boer War in South Africa. He learnt how to follow men and animals without being seen which is quite something. People there were always giving him nicknames – maybe because his own name was a bit of a mouthful. He was known by the Zulus as "M'hlala Panzi"-‘The man who lies down to shoot’. This does not mean that he was a bit lazy or his gun was too big for him; no, apparently it means, the man who takes careful aim and thinks before he acts. Another nickname was, "Impeesa"- ‘Wolf who never sleeps’ which is impressive but, "Kantankye"- ‘He of the big hat’ is not quite so good.

In 1899, Baden-Powell and his men were cut off by enemies, in a small town called Mafeking. He won the siege through daring determination, using dummies and pretend bombs and biscuit tin searchlights. After that he became the youngest Major-General in the British army. When he arrived home he found he had a lot of fans. They had read his book, ‘Aid to Scouting’ and they wanted to be just like him. So he set up the Boy Scouts. He knew that boys liked making gangs and whittling sticks with penknives, and he knew that they did not like being marched about and given orders so he invented a movement for doing woodwork in gangs and mucking about with fires and tents – and no marching. He made up lots of laws for the scouting movement, like always smiling and whistling and being friendly to animals but the main things were to ‘do good’ and ‘be prepared’.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

'What do you think about politics?'

Dad is so excited that he is NOT going into the cellar to sort out his teeth collection every spare second. No, Dad is sitting by the telephone in the hall.
'Why are you sitting here all the time?' I ask him.
'I'm not here ALL the time,' he says. I take a step forwards. 'You can't use the phone!' he says, snapping.
'I do not want to use the phone,' I explain. 'Mum has told me to collect your plate and says, do you want pudding out here as well?'
It turns out that the Prime Minister is using the telephone alot as well. Dad has been waiting for one whole day and night and now another part of a day, so he can tell the PM how to run the country better. He has a long list of things to say marked, 'urgent' 'quite important' and 'if time'. I look at the top of the words and almost fall asleep instantly with absolute boredom and think he would actually be a good hypnotist on the television.
Anyway, I leave him to read all about how to make a simple electro magnet which is packed full of interest.

I am in bed and I hear the telephone ring. Mum is trying to sing a soothing song to George upstairs. It is horrible, just like Serena the cat would sound if she started to sing. And George does not like it either. He is screaming. I run downstairs and trip up on Dad who is asleep on the floor. I hit him quite hard but he just mumbles.
'Your turn to change George's nappy...'
I pick up the receiver.
'Hello,' I say for starters. 'Wilf speaking.'
'Hello,' says a deep Scottish voice. 'Is that the Marshall household?'
'Not all of us,' I point out. 'Just me. Dad's asleep on the floor and Mum is upstairs wailing at my brother. I can tell you - he is absolutely screaming.'
Cough, cough. Throat grumblings.
'I quite understand, Wolf,' rumbles the voice, 'I share in the pain of the hard working people of Britain.' Pause.
'Me too,' I say. 'Who are you?'
Throat grumblings..
'The Prime Minister,' says, The Prime Minister. 'And tell me, Wolf, 'what do you think about politics?'
This is a good question. I ponder and think deeply but I can only remember my electro magnet.
'Have you read, 'The Dangerous Book for Boys?' I ask him.
Rumble, rumble. 'I will do so, you can be assured of that,' he says.
'Right, there's a really good bit about making a periscope which I have already done and then there is a simple electro magnet which is next on my list and...'
He leaps in. 'Let me point out my ten point action plan.'
'I do not think I can stay awake for that long,' I say, yawning. There is a big silence. 'I am supposed to be in bed,' I explain. 'And there is just one more thing. As well as having all the fantastic things that a boy needs to know in just one book, there is totally nothing about politics in it which is brilliant - apart from the rules of cricket, I suppose.'
'Hmph,' says the PM and he snorts as well. 'Perhaps you should go to bed.' The phone goes dead.
Not only do The Parents tell me to go to bed, all the time but the Prime Minister of Great Britain phones me up specially to do it as well. This is The End.
If I had a 'bed module' like this, I would be in bed all the time.