Interesting Top Ten Lists

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Top 10 things I would’ve invented if someone else hadn’t beaten me to it

In Inventions, skills, Top Ten on February 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm

There’s an old saying/lie that goes something like ‘everyone has a novel in them’ but I reckon we all have at least one invention that would make life better/easier/more enjoyable for all. Here’s ten I would’ve invented if someone hadn’t beaten me to it.

1 – Pockets: Did you know that pockets that were first thought of by a Roman, Julius Pocketus? He would hang the cloth pockets from his toga and keep useful items in them like small change and the keys to his chariot. However, in Roman times, coinage was made from very heavy metal and chariot keys carved from granite, so Julius’ toga was often falling down, so pockets never caught on. The modern idea of a pocket as being an integral part of a garment was resurrected by forward-thinking tailor, Robert ‘Bob’ Farah, as he wanted somewhere to store a comb and his wallet while out of an evening and really didn’t want to be seen carrying a bag.

2 – Toast: With the addition of butter, bread is pretty awesome on its own. However, if you add a little bit of heat to the sliced bread and you’ve got perhaps the greatest, simplest meal you can make. In fact, The addition of a nice cup of tea to this makes a food/drink combination that is without equal.

3 – The internet: It would’ve taken me a while but I would’ve invented the internet if Sir Tim Berners-Lee hadn’t beaten me to, but I’m not one to complain so hats off to Sir Tim. The internet is a the first modern wonder of the digital age and has brought all manner of delights from across the world to your internet-connected device. The £10 a month I spend on Spotify is easily the best value tenner I spend a month and Skype is a godsend for keeping in touch with family all around the world. Also, Berners-Lee is a nice bit of rhyming slang for a cup of tea.

4 – The right to roam: In his fabulous folk song, The Manchester Rambler, Ewan MacColl wrote that ‘no man has the right to own mountains’ and he was right. If people hadn’t have trespassed up Kinder Scout a while back, I’d climbing over walls instead of stiles now.

5 – Central heating: Though it’s probably the root cause of global warming, central heating is the bees knees. It’s so great to have that you only really notice it now when you visit somewhere that doesn’t have central heating, like New Zealand. New Zealand is a lovely country which can get quite cold in the winter. But instead of having central heating and insulation they use warm air heaters and electric blankets. This means you end up being in a house that has heat, not a warm house. Also, your washing never dries! I might move to New Zealand and introduce central heating and claim it is my invention.

6 – Family and friends: I really don’t like to think about this because it’s too big for my little brain to ponder for too long. But be safe in the knowledge that If family and friends hadn’t already been invented, I would’ve saved you from an awful life of constant loneliness.

7 – Recycling: Whoever thought that putting rubbish in a big whole in the ground was an idiot: “We’ll just dig a hole and throw our rubbish in it.”
“But won’t it fill up eventually?”
“Nah, it’ll be alright.”
What a doofus. Well done to the person that invented recycling. I’m glad you beat me to it.

8 – Spoonerisms: I don’t come up with these in my everyday speech, I just like the way they sound and subvert the original phrase, like a lack of pies, or a sock cucker. Well done on your early invention Reverend William Archibald Spooner, I’m glad it’s named after you because Gowism doesn’t flow all that well.

9 – Fresh sheets: You can be skint, down in the dumps, dumped, hungover, dog tired or just want to treat yourself on a Sunday evening;  and what is the simplest most effective way of giving yourself a touch of luxury? Putting clean, fresh sheets on your bed and sliding under the duvet. No rogue hairs, no PJs under the pillow, no leftover hot water bottle, and certainly no crumbs. Just you and the cotton. Or, if you’re posh, silk. If fresh sheets weren’t with us I’d have invented both washing powder and washing machines just to make this happen.

10 – The Dictionary: Full of words you’ll never need to know and words you’ll never know how to spell, no matter how often you look them up. The only place that liminology and limousine can sit comfortably side-by-side. For those who like lists (and if you’re reading this site then I guess that includes you), the dictionary is the ultimate list. Bow down and accept, that no matter how good your one invention is, it is never, ever, ever, going to come close to the dictionary.

by Aaron Gow

Like most ‘aspiring’ writers, Aaron writes guff like this all the time sporadically. If you want to read it then check out his blog.


Top ten constructions from leftover snacks and miscellaneous items purchased for Christmas 2011

In skills, Top Ten on January 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Construction #1: Bicycle
After viewing the genius of Bill Bailey and his Dandelion Mind show over the Christmas period, I spent last Sunday afternoon building a Kit-Kat and Wagon Wheel bicycle, complete with Toblerone bike rack.

Construction #2: Camp fire
The twiglets and the gold parcel ribbon were just sitting there. Having already knocked over a fat K.P peanuts tub, I arranged a handful of twiglets and the gold parcel ribbon on a dry roasted shingle beach. Ken and Barbie would lap it up.

Construction #3: Table-top football
Jelly babies aren’t a traditional Christmas sweet, but we have them at home during the festive/family/retail season. It was as I was playing the game ‘Vlad the Impaler’ with my sugary jellied friends that I made this wonderful discovery: if you skewer two to three jelly babies per cocktail stick, and dig out a wafer-tastic creamy cheese delight that is a cheese football, Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s your aunt, you’ve got yourself a table-top football game for the next five minutes, or how ever long it takes for it all to fall apart.

Construction #4: Snail
We are balancing roast chestnuts on the last of the dried dates. It’s not difficult. Once you’ve achieved this, they bear an uncanny resemblance to snails trailing across your garden path.

Construction #5: Smart phone/general gadgetry
I was zoning out on the Chocolate Yule log. Anna had placed it on the coffee table. I reached into my jeans and realised the Christmas gift I’d received from Harry was no longer in my pocket. In mild inebriation, I must have put it down somewhere. Wine has done this to me before you know. Its spirit, which is nothing whatsoever to do with its liquid form, exerts a sort of discipline. Wine has this way of encouraging the opposite hand of that which clasps it, by the thin neat stem of a Tulipe glass, to remain free of unnecessary objects, just in case. I saw it on the coffee table. It lay in terror under grabby, sticky, ice-cream covered hands. I scooped it up before chubby little fingers could get to it. Reaching for the bowl of assorted sweets, I ripped open a bag with my one free hand and teeth. I scattered the contents onto the Yule and pointed it out to baby Alexa. Let the kids go hammer and tongs at the Chocolate Yule log, finished off with dolly mixture ‘buttons’ to press instead of my new IPhone 4S.

Construction #6: ‘Bamboo’ wind chime
If you find yourself strumming Chris Rea’s ‘Home for Christmas’ on an acoustic next December, you’re almost certainly to be sitting cross-legged next to Ken and Barbie, and by a camp fire assembled from twiglets. Discarded pistachio shells and bite size Smarties boxes hanging from a Pringle tube will provide a beautiful ambient backdrop. Honest.

Construction #7: Raft
There’s something enigmatic about the freedom of the seas, the open salty air, and the bob-bob of the ocean wave. I have a Jacob’s Cream Cracker raft, a cocktail stick mast, and Quality Street foil wrapper for a sail. It’s all just about still floating on a sea of mulled wine.

Construction #8: Giant Hoopla game
Don’t let Downton Abbey fool you. Charades is out for Christmas 2012. Dust the spiders off the 2011 Christmas wreath, then take turns tossing the ‘hoop’ over the last few empty Kingfisher larger bottles you have in the garden. The winner takes home the left over brussels pate.

Construction #9: Weeble
Apparently the Weeble was the ‘in’ toy in the Seventies. I tried spiking a pickled onion on top of a Christmas tree bauble. I can’t see what all the fuss was about.

Construction #10: Candles/Fondue
This is probably the best (best being messy) creative construction in this list. Simply roll the last of the Danish Blue into tapers, pillars and tea lights. You can use that old Marks and Spencers gift thread for a wick. I’m not sure what will happen when you light these, possibly nothing candle-like. It’s more probable the structures will just turn into a bubbling cheesy mush.

By L.J. Spillane

L.J. Spillane lives in Manchester and writes little stories. You can catch her at and @LJSpillane

Top Ten skills I have lied about

In skills, Top Ten on January 20, 2012 at 7:28 am

1. Skateboarding

At the age of 9, I could climb trees, fight boys and scuff my knees on a daily basis. But could I use (see, I don’t even know the right verb! Do you use a skateboard? Ride one?) a skateboard? No I bloody couldn’t. But the cool kids could. So when they announced they were meeting near the quarry with their ‘boards, I quickly obtained one from a friend’s older brother (I’d get points for the well-worn stickers, bonus!), pulled my shorts down to a suitably slouchy level and hurried along. I fell off the damn thing within 5 minutes of my arrival, was laughed at and never invited back. Plus, I was so busy moping that I left the skateboard behind and it got nicked.

2. Speaking Spanish

This wouldn’t have been so much of a problem if it hadn’t led to me taking workshops with Spanish students in everything from geography (not my strongest subject in any language) to grammar. Thankfully, the phrase “it helps your language skills to speak as much English as possible in these sessions” saved my linguistically challenged ass.

3. Pint-pulling

I was young, I needed a bar job and – sorry to everyone who is a fan of a well-pulled pint – I was foolish. I learnt quickly (and through lack of tips).

4. Using a fax machine.

I know, I know, give some monkeys a year with a fax machine and they’ll send facsimiles of the works of Shakespeare to their zoo-bound compatriots. But I’ve worked in and around offices for the past 9 years without ever sending a fax. The one time I found myself unable to wriggle out of the task (and was too stubborn to admit I didn’t know how), it was broken anyway. Which kind of proves my point that we should just email things instead.

5. Travel

When I got a job writing travel guides for far flung areas of the world, it wasn’t so much that I lied about having travelled there… It was just that no-one ever asked.

6.  Kissing

At school, when bored, we took it in turns to lock two people in a cupboard until they kissed. The least active lips were left until last, so I fabricated stories of a miniature, rope-skipping Tallulah Bankhead in order to get picked first and get it over with. It was not a failure, and I’m pleased to report I have kissed people since (in public! Not in a cupboard!) .

7. Video editing

Turns out I can blag a lot of things, but advanced technical know-how is not one of them.

8. Singing

I’ve tried this several times. It’s not so much a lie as a hope that the more I repeat ‘I can sing’, the more likely it is to become true. Sadly, as the resulting 3 occasions of an audition, an assessment and a gig demonstrated, there’s a will but not a way.

9. Mime

This just went very, very badly. That’s all I’ll say about that.

10. “Direct marketing skills”

Aged 18, applying for my first ‘proper’ job, I saw an advert in the paper and rang up. “So you are interested in/know about direct marketing?” Why, yes I am! I got an interview, and again smiled and nodded and assured them I was interested. Turned up for my first day to find out it was sodding door to door sales. In Winter. At night. In Stretford. Oh, and it was commission only. My first solo ‘knock-on’ was a chap in his pants who proceeded to play the Countdown theme for me on an acoustic guitar. From there, it went downhill.

To any future employers who may be reading, please take from this my courage, ‘can-do’ attitude and willingness to try new things. Not, you know, the little white lies.

by Alex Herod

Alex Herod is Deputy Ed. of For Books’ Sake, a performer and writer living in sunny Moss Side. She tweets o’er at @collaboratehere.