So farewell then, Thor Heyerdahl…

Who, a year ago, had heard of Mr and Mrs Brian Norris of 37, Gledhill Gardens, Parsons Green? And yet their epic journey in EBW 343 has set them alongside Thor Heyerdahl and Sir Edmund Hillary. Starting only with a theory, Mr Norris set out to prove that the inhabitants of Hounslow could have been descendants of the people of Surbiton who had made the great trek north. No newcomer to this field, Mr Norris’s ‘A Short History of Motor Traffic Between Purley and Esher’ had become a best-selling minor classic in the car-swapping belt. But why would the people of Surbiton go to Hounslow? Mr Norris had noticed three things: Firstly, the similarity of the houses. Secondly, the similarity of the costume between Hounslow and Surbiton, and thirdly, the similarity of speech…

Were these just coincidences, or were they, as Mr Norris believed, part of an identical cultural background? One further discovery convinced him. The lawnmower. Surely such a sophisticated household gadget could not have been generated independently in two separate areas. Mr Norris was convinced…

There was only one way to see if the journey between Surbiton and Hounslow was possible, and that was to try and make it. Months of preparation followed whilst Mr Norris continued his research in the Putney Public Library, and Mrs Norris made sandwiches.

Finally, by April, they were ready. On the 23rd, Mr and Mrs Norris set out from ‘Abide-A-Wee’ to motor the fifteen miles to Surbiton, watched by a crowd of local well-wishers. That evening they dined at Tooting. This would be the last they’d see of civilization. Mr Norris’s diary for the 23rd reveals the extraordinary calmness and deep inner peacefulness of his mind.

“7.30 Fed cat. 8.00 Breakfast. 8.30 Yes (successfully). 9.00 Set out on historic journey.”

On the morning of the 24th, early to avoid the traffic, Mr Norris’s historic expedition set out from Surbiton – destination Hounslow. Early on they began to perceive encouraging signs. The writing on the sign was almost exactly the same as the writing in the AA book. They were on the right route. During the long hours of the voyage, Mr Norris’s wife Betty kept a complete photographic record and made sandwiches. … Mile succeeded mile and the terrific strain was beginning to tell when suddenly, by an amazing stroke of luck, Mr Norris had come across the Kingston by-pass…

At this stage, Mr Norris was faced with two major divergent theories concerning his Surbiton ancestors. Did they take the Kingston by-pass, turning left at Barnes, or did they strike west up the A308 via Norbiton to Hampton Wick? Both these theories ran up against one big obstacle – the Thames, lying like a silver turd between Richmond and Isleworth. This was a major setback. How could they possibly cross the river?

Several hours of thought produced nothing. There was only one flask of coffee left when suddenly Mr Norris spotted something. Could this have been the method used? Hardly daring to believe, Mr Norris led his expedition on to the 3.47. Forty minutes later, via Clapham, Fulham, Chiswick and Brentford, they approached their goal: Hounslow.

Was this, then, the final proof? Something aroused the accountant’s instinct buried deep in Mr Norris’s make-up. The journey was possible, and yet …. [here the camera zooms in on railway timetable on wall saying ‘Trains to Surbiton every half hour’] ‘Wrong Way’ Norris had accidentally stumbled on a piece of anthropological history. It was the inhabitants of Hounslow who had made the great trek south to the sunnier pastures of Surbiton, and not vice versa, as he had originally surmised. This was the secret of Surbiton! Happy and contented Mr Norris returned to the calmer waters of chartered accountancy, for, in his way, ‘Wrong Way’ Norris was right. …

From the


Three lovely pieces of silliness, only two of them concerning the Catholic Church. The SatireWire has Knives, Tanks, Whales – Airport Screeners Now Failing To Catch Anything and Police Must Notify Residents When Catholic Church Moves Into Neighborhood. Meanwhile the Onion has an article on Excited Catholics Already Lining Up For Pope’s Funeral.

Nick writes [2.4.2002]: Crikey, you’re recommending the same things I do (though my recommendations come out on a less industrial scale than your mighty blog). So you might like this, too: Government Proposes “Hunting With Cats”.

Nick writes again [3.4.2002] to recommend Is your Catholic Priest putting something other than a Communion wafer into your mouth?.

French Intellectuals

Apologies for the gap in posting: I was off in North Africa. Most of the readers of the weblog will have seen this already, since it’s been doing the rounds for over a week now, but some of you may not, which makes it worth reposting:

French Intellectuals to be Deployed to Afghanistan to Convince Taliban of Non-Existence of God

The ground war in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taliban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.

Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or ‘Black Berets’, will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and existential anomie among the enemy. Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris’ Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement caf�s at strategic points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life and man’s lonely isolation in the universe. They will be accompanied by a number of heartbreakingly beautiful girlfriends who will further spread dismay by sticking their tongues in the philosophers’ ears every five minutes and looking remote and unattainable to everyone else.

Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, gesticulated wildly and said, “The Taliban are caught in a logical fallacy of the most ridiculous. There is no God and I can prove it–take your tongue out of my ear, Juliet, I am talking!”

Marc-Ange plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man’s nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. However, humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmens’ endless gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area…

I’m not sure where this is from originally, so if anyone can give credit where it’s due, please get in touch.

Raj writes [22.3.2002]: First saw the ‘French Intellectuals’ piece on NetTime. The home for it appears to be here.

Total but welcome stranger Shaun agrees [26.3.2002]: I’d like to pass on the following as the source of the French Intellectuals In Afghanistan piece… You’ll get a great laugh fromMichael Kelly’s site as this stuff is so typical of his humor and he deserves the credit where it’s due!

Chris replies [26.3.2002]: Credit where it’s due, indeed, though most of the rest of Michael Kelly’s site seems to me to be not terribly funny at all, and the splendid Afghanistan piece a rare triumph. That’s a swift verdict after spending less than five minutes at the site, though, so not to be taken especially seriously.


A fine new piece on the SatireWire: “Closed Disinformation Agency Can’t Convince Staff It’s Closed”: “Following Tuesday’s announcement that the Pentagon had closed the controversial Office of Strategic Influence, which allegedly was created to spread false information abroad, the agency said it has been unable to convince OSI employees to stop reporting for work…”


This is rather blissful, and comes from the satirewire:

Asks For Your Confidential Assistances, Bank Accounts Numbers
Lagos, Nigeria ( � Saying he had finally found a venue worthy of his business model, Kenneth Lay resigned today as chairman of Enron to join the Energy National Resource Organization of Nigeria, which needs your confidential assistance in the transferring of offshore funds into a new company of Nigeria that will provide incredible profit on paper by the trading of energy contracts.

According to an email sent to undisclosed recipients by Lay, who now identifies himself as a “close advisor” to the Nigerian National Petroleum Ministry, he is interested to do business with you because of credible reports that you will recognize this opportunity of great wealth. All that is required, the letter stated, is your banking accounts number and your purchase of stock of this energy trading company that has no traceable losses or shell companies or indictable irregularities of any kind.

Dr. Tunde Momoh, director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Ministry, which is coordinating the E.N.R.O.N. initiative, said the addition of Lay to his staff has given a boost to all Nigerian government ministries, which traditionally earned revenues by asking you to provide your bank account number so as to make possible the transfer of $US50 million from a soon-to-be-exposed Ministry fund. For your assistance, you would receive 20 percent of these moneys.

“We are thrilled to have now someone of Mr. Lay’s experiences,” said Momoh. “It is rare to find a non-Nigerian who is familiar with our methods and objectives, and his idea for the creating of the energy trading company E.N.R.O.N. is inspired.”

“When I am first hearing of it, I admit it has the sound of crazy,” Momah added, “but (Lay) is telling us that based on his experiences, this could work for years.”

Contacted at his confidential fax number, Lay said he was excited by the change, and predicted he would adapt easily to Nigerian methods. “It’s a new country and I’ve had to learn to muddle a bit my syntax, but the basic business approach is something we both have in common,” he said. “I only wish I had started here first.”

Lay added that, as he did at Enron, where he served as both chairman and chief executive officer, the new job will enable him to take part in several Nigerian businesses, including stints as Dr. Chukwuma Mbaduwa, an accountant in the Nigerian Transport Ministry, Abu Idomu, a top official of the federal government contract review panel, and the Lady Maryam Abacha, wife of late Gen. Sani Abacha, ex-military head of state of Nigeria, whose assets have been frozen except for $50 million she stuffed in a box labeled as photographic materials which she deposited in a security company where her brother-in-law works as general manager and she now needs your assistance in retrieving these moneys.

Click here to read the letter.

Many thanks to Nick for drawing this variation on a now-familiar theme to the attention of the weblog.