In the week the Daily Mail serialised Patricia Pearson's Opening Heaven's Door (headline: "Each time one of my loved ones died, a clock stopped" *), another member of the contacting-the-dead community was not having an easy time.
It was just another night on Psychic Sally's tour and a bio-chemist called Myles Power had tickets to see her in Middlesbrough. For one section of the show, audience members had been asked to submit photos of dead loved ones, and one was projected on to a screen. "Sally began to get communications from beyond the grave," says Power, "and asked the person who submitted the picture to stand up."
At that point, the psychic tried a number of "high-probability guesses": "Did she die on a Wednesday?" and so on. Nothing. After more toe-curling moments, Sally asked the woman in the audience how the woman in the photo was related to her. "Turns out," says Power, "she'd got the concept wrong and had submitted a picture of her younger self. The hall erupted in laughter which quickly changed into disapproving mumbles that lasted the rest of the night."
* Maybe they were winding the clocks?
Every time something new comes along, there will be a moral panic that it is bad for our minds/health/society at large. But according to Kevin C Pyle and Scott Cunningham, authors of Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun, it was ever thus.
In a recent Q&A, the pair cited an article from the 2 June 1859 issue of Scientific American. Under the banner "Chess-Playing Excitement", the piece rails: "Chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character [that] does not serve a single purpose …." The article concludes: "A young gentlemen of our acquaintance recently pushed the board from him, declaring, 'I have wasted too much time on it already. This is my last game.' We recommend his resolution to all those who have been foolishly led away by the present chess excitement."
Consider yourselves warned.
Too cool for school
No one could take issue with any campaign that encourages children to read more, and one man who has done more for that cause than most is Anthony Horowitz, whose teenage spy Alex Rider books have been translated into 28 languages. Horowitz says there is no magic formula: "If you want to engage young people in reading, you have to reach out to them – personal contact, talking about books and answering questions," he says.
To practise what he preaches, Horowitz is planning a "digital takeover" of English lessons on 16 June (register at alexrider.com/horowitzlive) where he will live-link to schools around the country and answer pupils' questions.
But what are the questions he most fears? "The one I most dread is, 'What football team do you support?', because it's impossible to answer without upsetting half the audience. And I hate any question that begins, 'When you were young …' because it reminds me that I'm not."
Of slice and men
In the week that Ed Miliband fought and lost the Battle of the Bacon Butty, there was some happier sandwich-related news from across the pond. To recap: two years ago, the gossip writer Stephanie Smith started a blog called 300 Sandwiches. She did so because, and I quote, "My boyfriend E is obsessed with two things: Star Wars and sandwiches. During a Sunday lunchtime viewing of Return of the Jedi he told me: 'You are 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring!' … And so, I got cooking." Cue the book deal and the opprobrium of anyone who cares about gender politics.
Anyhoo, the "good" news is that last week, Eric proposed to Stephanie while she was working on Sandwich #257. But what this column would like to know is why, as a resident New Yorker, Smith didn't hold out for a "hero"?
Search for the new 'selfie'
Last year it was "twerk" and "selfie", but what new words will be added to the dictionary this year? Funny you should ask, because "in a groundbreaking development for dictionary publishing, the Collins English Dictionary is using data from Twitter users to identify new words" and people have until midnight on Wednesday to select their favourite (twictionary.collinsdictionary.com). The shortlist includes "adorkable", "duckface" and "gaybourhood", but might I use urge you to vote for "vaguebooking" (posting deliberately vague status updates to prompt a response)?
No rhyme or reason
Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:
If security isn't that tight
There'll be hackers in every website
Though with all that resetting
And password forgetting
We can't get in try as we might