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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Amazing tales from planet tabloid
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This week in our regular update from the outer limits of the news agenda: a talking toilet, militant gnome activists, and the contortionist who over-did it. But first...

Burning issue of the week:

Question: Why do we Britons never win anything in the arena of international sport?

Answer: Because we are no flippin' good - that's why not!

A bum wrap

A Cheshire company has invented a talking toilet.

It's good to talk...
It is called "VIP", which stands for versatile interactive pan and, according to the Daily Record, will cost 5,000 when it goes on sale in 2006.

And it turns out that the UK is now the world's leading centre for talking toilet research.

The idea is that the toilet's bowl will be packed with sensors which analyse urine and excrement for hormone and nutrient levels, thus providing an instant health check.

Manufacturer Terry Wolliscroft told the paper: "It is ideal for people with health worries and establishes the humble loo as an interactive marvel."

Hermit news

A misery-ridden former Devon hermit is planning to live in a pile of straw bales - if he can find a place for the straw... and if planning authorities will let him.

International news
FRANCE: "Garden Liberation" activists steal 105 gnomes and put them on roundabout near Paris

TURKEY: Domino player hospitalised when cow crashes through coffee house roof

GERMANY: Dog owner throws stick and pet returns with live hand grenade

ISRAEL: Tel Aviv beggars ask police to extend red traffic lights so they can make more money

US: Road repair workers injured when "Take Care - Men at Work" sign drops on their heads
The saga began eight years ago when Tony Parsons - no relation to the best-selling author - ran in terror from his blazing wooden hermit shack after it was set on fire.

The shack was completely gutted - as was the 55-year-old hermit when he was then forced to live with his parents and get a job in a factory.

Now he has saved up 4,000 - enough, he reckons to buy a pile of straw and a one-acre plot of land.

"What I'd really like is somewhere near trees away from the rat race," he told the Cullumpton Express & Echo.

The straw hovel, he says, "will be quite rigid and strong when its finished".

There is no chance that a local wolf will huff and puff and blow his house down.

In a pickle

A circus body-bender got one of his legs stuck round his neck for two hours during practice.

The performer, known as Birkine, was carrying out his daily routine when his leg locked as he twisted it behind him.

This trade of dwarves is inconceivable nowadays, slavery having been abolished. Then, to remove all these sequestrations, let us beat for their freedom!

Garden Gnome Liberation Front

The 21-year-old, performing in Gillingham, Kent, with the Netherlands National Circus, had to stay on his pedestal until an osteopath arrived.

"I think I didn't warm up properly," the Kazakhstan-born artist told The Sun.

"It's the first time I have ever got stuck and I've been doing this since I was six. My advice is don't try it at home."

Planet lifestyle

Our section within a section which tracks the mad world of Broadsheet lifestyle sections.

Moya Soyer-Jones in The Times Weekend section has a serious problem. She has moved to the country and misses all the junk mail she used to get.

Packing has a lot in common with method acting

The Times
"I've been pining away, out of range of leaflet drops, for some time, and I wasn't sure how much longer I could last," she writes.

But she's OK now because she has found a website called Catalogue City. The upshot is that she is knee deep in junk mail and has the habit of reading it all for hours "instead of defrosting chops from the fridge".

Desperate to find some sort of variation on the theme of shopping, the Times Weekend section advises us to do our routine, weekly shopping in Brussels.

If you get hungry while doing the shopping, the place to visit is La Perroquet in the Rue Watteau.

"This place is ideal to pop into if you are in a hurry - and it sells delicious cakes," is the section's top tip.

But it's not very likely that people who pop over to Brussels are there for the supermarket run.

The world according to Street-Porter

The Independent on Sunday's roving editor-at-large this week commandeers a whole half-page to reminds us that she wears glasses.

Janet Street-Porter
Janet Street-Porter
She explains that she does this because she has poor eye-sight. Glasses, she further explains, are "pieces of plastic which perch on your nose".

The upshot is that she has lately bought a new pair of glasses from the trendiest spectacle-designer in the world.

Importantly, she tells us that women who wear glasses are "trendy and desirable".

Just like Janet Street-Porter.

Keep your eyes peeled for stories to send to Planet Tabloid. Click here to submit them to us.

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