Words of Wisdom from Danielle and Sharon

X Factor Shenanigans

Sharon works in a call centre. The company she works for replaces things for people when they make an insurance claim. We’re not talking about windows and doors or roof tiles or even garages and sheds. We’re talking about televisions, laptops, phones: things like that. They also replace bikes.

Sharon works in the bike team. She replaces bikes for people. She replaces stolen bikes and damaged bikes but she never replaces lost bikes. It’s a bit difficult to lose a bike, after all: they are a bit too big for that sort of thing. The bike team consists of Sharon and five others: all male and all young enough to be her sons: Ray, Joe, Mark, Andy and Alex.

Now there’s a talent show on TV called X Factor. Sharon doesn’t watch X Factor. She thinks it’s boring and the noise the contestants make hurts her ears. Her colleagues do watch X Factor and think it’s great and recently they decided they wanted to appear on the show, so they formed a boy band, Brake That.

Brake That, from L to R: Ray, Joe, Alex and Andy. Unfortunately Mark was not at the photo shoot because he was pulling some sick tricks on his BMX.

Now Sharon’s boys (as she likes to call them) aren’t stupid and knew they were going to have to have plenty of practise singing together to have any chance of making it through the auditions. They therefore started rehearsals on 14th June 2011. By the audition on 15th June, they had chosen a song, “Relight My Fire”, and felt they had got it up to the required standard. They set off in Andy’s trusty Ford Escort for Manchester, full of excitement and confidence.

When their turn came, they filed out in front of the judges. “Hi,” said Ray, full of confidence, “We’re Brake That and we have the X Factor”. The judges grimaced and Tulisa enquired with perceptible trepidation, “What are you going to sing for us?”  Andy stepped forward and said “Tonight, Chorizo, we are going to sing “Relight My Fire” by Take That.”

At that, Britain’s soon to be Boy Band sensation launched into Take That’s classic, “Relight My Fire” and a hush fell over Old Trafford as the audience fell into a rapt silence and the judges fell asleep. The band had already decided that Joe was going to sing Lulu’s part and he managed a creditable falsetto and even a reasonable Scottish accent. During the performance, Ray did some amazingly athletic breakdancing while the other members of Brake That stood round clapping in time. By the end of the song, everybody in the audience was on their feet, clapping in time to the music, cheering and generally showing their approval. Louis, Tulisa and Kelly were snoring and Gary had his head in his hands and was looking decidedly shell-shocked.

Brake That at the audition at Old Trafford. Unfortunately, Mark could not be there because he was pulling some sick tricks on his BMX.

As the song finished, Louis, Kelly and Tulisa woke up with a start: Gary’s sobbing had awoken them. Embarrassed that they had fallen asleep, they put Brake That through to bootcamp. So the boys returned to Preston on a high, feeling like the world was their oyster or, if not their oyster, then at least their winkle. They decided they needed a manager and who better to manage them than the Bike Team ‘Mum’, Sharon, so they buttered her up with three packets of Gingernuts and asked her. Sharon was happy to rise to the challenge, especially as she thought there may be some money or at least some more gingernuts in it for her.

The first problem she had to deal with, however, was Alex, who left the band immediately after the audition to pursue a career in journalism at Reuters. She quickly found a replacement, Suhail, who had a natural singing talent and fitted into the band (and the bike team) very well indeed. Sharon also thought that the boys should have distinct personalities – a bit like the Beatles. Joe was very sensitive, so he would be the sensitive one, Suhail would be the prankster, Andy would be the ladies’ man, Mark was really into his bikes, so he would be the bikey one and Ray was a natural dancer, so he would be the dancy one. Now Brake That was ready for Boot Camp.

However, the judges had a nasty surprise for the contesstants but, before the nasty surprise, they had a nice one. They were all bussed down to London where the judges threw them a party. There was drink, food, lots of music and dancing and even a hot tub. Ray showed off his breakdancing skills on the dance floor while Joe sat quietly in a corner listening to the woes of some of the contestants. Suhail was setting off stink bombs, while Andy was leaping into the hot tub fully-clothed with all the bikini-clad young lady contestants. Mark was pulling some sick tricks on his BMX. They partied late into the night and only fell into their beds at seven in the morning.

Andy with a bevy of beauties in the hot tub.

At 7.15, they were all assembled on the lawn, where the judges, who had reviewed the audition tapes, had the nasty surprise waiting for them: a cull of some of the hopefuls. It was an uneasy time for Brake That, as it turned out they were in the final group to be told they had made it through. As the tear-stained cullees left to pack their bags and return home, Sharon and her “boys” all heaved a huge sigh of relief. They were now moving on to the Wembley Arena part of the show.

Wembley went well for them. They were teamed up with three of the soloists on the first day to sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Sir Elton John and Dame Kiki Dee and, to be frank, they showed the other singers in the group up for the rank amateurs they were and so, on the following evening, they found themselves singing “Blame It on the Boogie”, to an audience of 5000. They were completely unfazed by the experience and their rendition of the Jackson 5 classic was rapturously received by audience and judges alike, even Gary Barlow. Their progression to the next stage of the competition seemed to be assured.

There was, however, a minor hurdle for them to overcome. The judges put them through to the next stage, complimenting them on their showmanship and ability, but they needed to take time off work to enable them to go to Greece with Tulisa and, as they were 83% of the bike team, they were highly unlikely to get the time off together. Fortunately, Sharon had a word with the resource planner, who was leaving the company in a couple of weeks anyway and, having nothing to lose, she put the leave through so the boys were able to go. For this, they were eternally grateful to Sharon, who not only made sure they could live their dream but also was going to deal with all the bike claims, singlehandedly, for the next few weeks.

Sharon coping very well with her increased workload

So Brake That headed off to Mykonos with the other group hopefuls, full of anticipation and confidence. The “judges’ house” stage was to be eventful, as their mentor, Tulisa, was forced to throw some of the hopefuls off the show for breaking her very strict house rules. Fortunately, the boys had foreseen a potential pitfall and tied Andy to his bed during the night to prevent him escaping to cavort with some of his fellow female contestants. It was an uncomfortable night for Andy, as Suhail had put itching powder in his bed. However, they all put an incredible amount of hard work into honing their act, apart from Mark, who had found an awesome skate park on the island and spent most of his time honing his biking skills and pulling some sick tricks on his BMX.

At the end of this, they auditioned again for the judges and were put through to the live shows. This was, in part, due to the fact that Tulisa had already thrown four of the other groups off the show for being caught in compromising situations and, in part, due to their astonishing talent. Now they were going to be judged by the great British public and they knew they were going to have to raise their game.

The theme for the first live show was Punk. This was to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Punk Rock. The boys were frantic, as they had no knowledge of this genre of music and turned for advice to their manager, Sharon, who, fortunately for them, is an old punk. She suggested they sing “Oh Bondage Up Yours” by X-Ray Spex. Joe decided to take the lead vocals, as he felt he would be able to reach the higher notes. The other members of the group happily agreed to this, although that meant they would play a minor part at best in the performance.

A youthful Sharon in 1976

Brake That stormed the show and achieved the highest audience poll ever. They were through to the next show. This was to set the tone for most of the remaining live shows, as they topped the audience poll in the Bob Dylan, Trance, Jackson Five, Epic Doom Metal and Gareth Gates theme shows. They had a scare on the Opera show, when Joe’s usually reliable falsetto cracked as he sang Violetta’s part in the group’s rendition of “Libiamo” from Verdi’s “La Traviata” and they ended up in the bottom three, facing the sing-off and the judges’ decision. Fortunately, they made it through to the next and final show.

Joe, Ray and Andy of Brake That performing "Libiamo" from Verdi's "La Traviata". Mark was not at the show because he was pulling sick tricks on his BMX. Suhail is just out of shot.

In the final show the boys pulled arguably their best performance out of the hat when they sang “Mistletoe and Wine” by Sir Cliff Richard. Joe took the part of the nauseating school children and wore a cassock and surplice, while the other members of the band wore thick pullovers and corduroy trousers. The audience went into a frenzy of applause as Ray performed his now signature breakdancing routine and spun 720 degrees on his baseball cap.

It was a foregone conclusion and, for the first time, a group won X Factor. The boys got their £1m recording deal and became one of the most successful acts in the UK. They kept their feet firmly on the ground, though, and returned to work on the bike team, much to Sharon’s relief, as she had been singlehandedly dealing with the work of six for several months now.

Sharon coping very well indeed with her increased workload.

They felt they owed a debt of gratitude to Sharon, not least for her holding the fort for them, so they bought her a lovely house in Lytham with a swimming pool, which they filled with gingernuts. Sharon was overwhelmed by this gesture and burst into tears when she saw the gingernut filled swimming pool. They had intended to continue working on the bike team but, unfortunately, when they tried to book time off for their first world tour, the new resource planner would not let them have the leave, so they reluctantly had to hand in their resignation.

Sharon is still dealing with the bike claims.


Dame Daphne Monitor-Lizard, Hairdresser to the Intelligentsia
January 9, 2011, 7:37 pm
Filed under: Hairdressing, People, Physics

Dame Daphne Monitor-Lizard with her dog, Graham

Today is the 70th birthday of a most remarkable woman. Dame Daphne Monitor-Lizard is the youngest child of Brigadier Sir Hugh G Monitor-Lizard and his wife Leonie, She and her 4 siblings, Frances, Nicholas, Gerald and Bert were brought up in a household where intellectual achievement was highly prized. As a small child, she idolised her eldest brother, Nicholas, who went up to Oxford in 1946 to study Classics and, in later years, she would tell of her early intentions to follow in his footsteps.

However, when she started school, it became clear very quickly that her talents lay in quite different fields, Maths and Science. Her mother, who was a passionate advocate of women entering the field of science, encouraged her and for her 6th birthday she bought her a chemistry set. She later fondly recalled her daughter’s early experiments in an interview in 1963 and recounted how Daphne made a shampoo that cleared up her father’s chronic dandruff within a few washes. Unfortunately, it also made his hair fall out.

She continued to excel in school and in 1957 was offered a place at St Winona’s College, Oxford, to read Particle Physics and Advanced Hairdressing. After a brilliant undergraduate career, during which she became the college Cluedo champion, played Tuba in the university orchestra and edited the monthly undergraduate science journal, Unscientific Monthly, she was awarded only the second double-first in the college’s history.

After graduation, she went to work with Edward Strange on his research into sub-atomic particles at the University of Hull. Unfortunately, due to an error in the calibration of his equipment, his theory that protons and neutrons were made up of yet smaller particles, which he called Littlons, could not be proved and, a year later, the existence of Quarks was proposed by Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig. This set-back did not deter Strange from his research but Daphne was disheartened as she blamed the error in calibration on herself.

She therefore decided to take a break from elementary particle physics and turned her hand to her other great love, hairdressing. She set up a salon in East Grinstead and soon had a roaring business. However, she found the conversations she had with her clients dull and uninspiring; she was not interested to hear about their holidays in Majorca, how well their children were doing at school or what their husbands thought about the government. She longed to be able to talk about the latest discoveries in physics: quarks, leptons and hadrons. After a year or so, she employed a manager to look after the salon and went to Oxford to look for a suitable premises for another, more interesting hairdressing business. She intended to cater to the highly specialist hairstyles found in Academe the world over.

A satisfied customer of The Charm Quark, Cambridge

Daphne eschewed traditional names for hairdressing salons, like The Upper Cut, Hairlucinations, Debonhair, The Mane Attraction and so on. She gave her new salon in Oxford the rather unusual name, The Charm Quark. It was an immediate success: professors who had not had a haircut in years because they had been so depressed by the small talk at traditional salons came flocking to it. They could now have their hair carefully styled to look wild and unkempt whilst discussing the intricasies of calculus or the latest discoveries in elemental particle physics. Daphne thrived in this atmosphere and so did the business and she soon set up a small chain of hairdressers in University towns across the UK.

In 1992, she was awarded the CBE for services to hairdressing. Her brothers and sister were delighted and Nicholas, her early source of inspiration, arranged a family get together to celebrate her award. He read out a speech about his “little Daph” and her achievements entirely in Ancient Greek. It is a testament to the intellectual prowess of the Monitor-Lizard family that nobody present needed a translation.

Dame Daphne has never married and has given herself entirely to her chosen career, hairdressing. The Charm Quark chain of hairdressers now has a salon in every University town in the United Kingdom and it is said in academic circles that this country boasts the best coiffed scholars in the western world.

The Speci Crophopper Pro Triple 2010 or the world’s most expensive bike.
April 22, 2010, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Bicycles, Sport | Tags: ,

Sharon recently started a new job in a bicycle shop. She’s really loving it and has become fascinated by the environmentally friendly, two-wheeled form of transport. Danielle doesn’t really see the attraction. She prefers to travel by Sedan Chair, although Sharon is convinced that is because of the two very muscular men Danielle employs to carry it for her.

Here is Sharon pedalling away like mad.

Sharon on her new bicycle

and here is Danielle’s sedan chair, although, unfortunately, she hasn’t trained her bearers very well yet and they keep leaving without her.

Danielle's sedan chair, without Danielle

Last weekend, Sharon and Danielle were in the pub and Sharon was talking about her favourite subject. Stifling a yawn, Danielle asked Sharon what the most expensive bike in the world ever was. Sharon didn’t know but promised Danielle she would find out for her. Below are the results of Sharon’s week long research into the subject.

The most expensive bike ever built was a custom made road bike made entirely of old potato peelings. It was originally the idea of Professor Tristram Bandycoot as he wanted to build an extremely cheap bike, to be built of kitchen waste, which is, after all completely free. The initial prototype, the Maris Piper Soft Spud Comp Triple, crumpled into a smelly heap after two days, so he threw the blueprint into the recycling bin and started again.

The problem, he quickly realised, was that potato peelings are soft and bikes need to be rigid. Therefore, he needed to find a way of altering their molecular composition to make them more rigid. He experimented with cooking them: first boiling, then frying and finally baking them. Although frying and baking them made them more rigid, the Professor found that the finished product would not take the weight of anybody over 5 stone and he realised he would have to try something else.

The prof has friends in high places, including the LHC (The Large Habibi Collider) in Cerne, Switzerland, and it was there that he took his next batch of peelings. Using the highest tech equipment in the world, designed to find the “god particle” that gives all potatoes their mass, the professor’s highly intelligent friends and colleagues at Cerne bombarded the potato peelings with sub-atomic particles, which caused them to fuse together into what is now the strongest and lightest material known to man – Spudmium. This material was also amazingly easy to work and the professor finally realised his dream of building the first bike made entirely of kitchen waste.

The Speci Crophopper Pro Triple 2010

He called it the Speci Crophopper Pro Triple 2010. It has a Shimabara groupset, Aphid Shorty cantilever brakes, Mavka rims and Hopehely hubs and Daisyface drop handlebars. All its components are made of potato-peeling fibre. It is an amazingly good bike: light, yet rigid and, according to English Olympic medallist, Victoria Pentland-Javelin, it is the best ride she has ever had.

Unfortunately, Professor Bandycoot was not able to entirely fulfil his dream. The Crophopper Pro Triple 2010 is not extremely cheap, after all. The bill for bombarding the potato peelings with sub-atomic particles came to a whopping $5,010,399 or £3,255,687. The finished bicycle costs, in total, £3,256,982.02. Evidently, this is beyond the means of most leisure cyclists. However, it is rumoured that the former Chief Executive of a well known british bank has expressed an interest in buying the bike, so the professor should not need to remortgage his home, sell his car, wife, children and grandchildren to finance his great dream.

Much to Sharon’s disappointment, the only reaction she got from Danielle to this interesting tale was a loud snore.

Ancient Religion
January 3, 2010, 4:00 pm
Filed under: Religion | Tags:

The ancient religion of Zircon-inanity is practised in the ancient city state of Pulmonia. The High Priestess of Zirconia is called Crepida Barda and she carries out the ancient rite known as Cust-oma Caer. This involves appeasing the deities (their ancient names, Pol, Icy and Holders, must never be said aloud by any but the High Priestess) by throwing small pieces of paper with arcane symbols (£s and 100s) at them. This way she hopes to ensure a good harvest, fertility, Villa to win the Premiership and for the gods not to scream and shout, stamp their feet and go red in the face.

The High Priestess’ robes of office are:

The Thong of Plenty
The Bikini Top of Righteousness
The Kneeboots of Charity

In her right hand she carries a golden chalice containing a rare wine, made from grapes grown on the side of the sacred hill, Jay-too-Oh!. In her left hand, she carries the Plastic Spoon of Hope.

Crepida Barda, The High Priestess of Zirconia

October 26, 2009, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Plagiarism | Tags:

Recently, Sharon was amusing herself by Googling the heroes of her blogs and found out that some pricks (or jerks if you do not hail from the mother-country) have plagiarised some of her hard work. In an attempt at originality, the plagiarists (yes, there is more than one), had changed some of the words, thus rendering blogs that were already pretty damn silly non-sensical.

This is incomprehensible to both Danielle and Sharon. These blogs are not serious works. They are jokes. Bloody silly jokes at that so why would anybody actually want to steal them? Maybe our style of writing is better than we thought. Maybe our ideas actually do have some worth. We don’t know; we were only having a bit of fun.

We’re not impressed. Plagiarism is the lazy bastards’ option. It is the option for people who have never had an original thought in their head and have no idea how to write. At first, we were incredulous; now we’re just pissed off.

So here’s something for you to plagiarise:

Once upon a time there was a handsome prince who was turned into a frog by a wicked witch. Unfortunately, before he could be kissed by a beautiful princess, a kid with a bicycle pump got hold of him and pumped him up until he burst.

The End!

A Crime Wave in St Darrens-on-Sea
March 2, 2009, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Crime, Gerontology, People | Tags:

Recently, Sharon and John have noticed a helicopter flying around St Darrens-on-Sea rather a lot. This has caused a great deal of speculation in and around the small seaside resort, where, as a rule, nothing ever happens. It has also caused much head scratching and pondering in John and Sharon’s humble abode. Even George the Farmer is perplexed.

The helicopter searching for elderly escapees

The helicopter searching for elderly escapees

Eventually, Sharon decided to consult her oldest and best friend, Danielle, to see if she could come up with an answer to the conundrum. Danielle, with her usual quick-wittedness, came up with the answer. There must have been a break out from Willowbank.

St Darrens-on-Sea is unique in the British Isles, as it has the only Maximum Security Retirement Facility in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Willowbank Maximum Security Rest Home houses some of the most dangerous OAPs in Western Europe .  It was opened on 23 June 2004 by Trevor Legislation, Secretary of State for Dick Cheney, and was hailed as a breakthrough in the care for the elderly.

Trevor Legislation opening Willowbank in June 2004

Trevor Legislation opening Willowbank in June 2004

A special diet has been developed by leading Scottish Criminal Gerontologist, Grampian McMurdo, and the inmates receive four square meals of tea and biscuits a day. There are plenty of activities available to the elderly residents, including bingo, stair lift racing and daytime television. There is a post office in the grounds, where the inmates can go to chat, draw their pensions and queue jump. However, it is a maximum security facility and their freedom is curtailed, so a favourite pastime at many old people’s homes, boxing, is banned.

However, despite its 10ft tall perimeter electric fence topped with barbed wire, it is evident that some resourceful and extremely criminal old ladies and gentlemen have been able to organise a number of escapes over the past few weeks.


Willowbank Maximum Security Retirement Facility

Bus queue jumping by old ladies has increased sevenfold in St Darrens and its surrounding areas and there have been numerous assaults with handbags, walking sticks and even zimmer frames reported to the police recently. There have been a number of incidents of Mobility Scooter Rage, including one where a woman of 32 was chased for three miles by a senile delinquent at 8 miles per hour.

Getaway Car outside the bank, while a robbery is in progress.

Getaway Car outside the bank, while a robbery is in progress.

So the helicopter has been looking for escapees and one by one they are being caught. The helicopter has been invaluable, as it is able to track the elderly miscreants as they go to ground in bingo halls, community centres and church halls. Police chases at 8 miles per hour are much safer with the helicopter hovering overhead and the thermal imaging can identify them by the hot water bottles secreted about their persons.

We are all very grateful for the helicopter in St Darrens-on-Sea. After all, it’s making it a safer place for us all.

The Farmers’ Market
February 5, 2009, 3:59 pm
Filed under: Agriculture | Tags:

Sharon is off work today. She’s not pulling a sicky or anything like that, it’s simply her day off. On his way into work this morning, John, Sharon’s young man, noticed there was a farmers’ market on for the day in nearby Bishops Itchington and sent Sharon a text to let her know.

Never one to miss a bargain, Sharon got into her Peel P50 and set off to do some shopping.


Sharon speeding to the Farmers' Market

Once she got there, there was a bewildering variety on show. She wandered around, bemused for a while, just looking and seeing if anything took her fancy. Suddenly, she saw it. A rosy-cheeked farmer with huge mutton chop whiskers in a smock, with a red spotted hanky tied round his neck shouting “Get orff moy laaand!” at everybody and everything walking past. She went up to the stall and asked the person there, “How much for the one with the red spotted hanky?” “£7.50 a pound,” was the reply. “That’s a bit steep,” she said, “I’ll give you £3.00 a pound.” After a bit of haggling, they settled on £5.50 a pound and the farmer jumped on the scales. Sharon left a good deal poorer than before but with a fine specimen to take home.

A fine breeding pair on sale today at Bishops Itchington

A fine breeding pair on sale today at Bishops Itchington

Once she got him home, she chained him up in the car park at the rear of the flats where she and John live and he has spent the rest of the day shouting at school children at a nearby school. Sharon was delighted to see him pull out a shotgun and shoot a toy dog just now. “That dog’s been worrying moy sheep,” he shouted at the dog’s small and tearful owner as she picked up the mangled pieces of fluff and material.

Sharon can’t wait for John to get home so he can see her latest acquisition, which she has decided to call George. He is already a die-hard Tory and hates change of any variety and soon Sharon hopes he will develop more bucolic traits and possibly grow some crops on the school field at the back and then shout at the children for trampling on them when they’re playing football. Next week, Sharon hopes to get him a tractor, so he can drive it on the main arterial routes during rush hour and annoy the commuters. It’s amazing to think how much fun you can have with a farmer.

Sharon and John's farmer in a borrowed tractor, blocking a narrow lane this afternoon

Sharon and John's farmer in a borrowed tractor, blocking a narrow lane this afternoon