Slappers brought to eel

It’s not often this part of the world features in the national newspapers, but, with the heatwave dominating the news last month, journalists flocked to the beaches in Bournemouth in search of stories proving Britain’s new found similarity to Tenerife, with text usually accompanied by pictures of lusty, tanned, young women in itsy-bitsy bikinis.

The same journalists were back down recently, only this time they were a little further west, at Lyme Regis, covering the controversy surrounding the annual eel slapping contest.

Yes, if all you thought conger eel was fit for was eating with jelly and a pint of stout, think again! In Lyme they’ve been ‘conger cuddling’ for more than 30 years.

Conger cuddling involves two teams standing like skittles on a set of six-inch high wooden blocks. Each team tries to knock the other off by swinging a dead conger eel – apparently a five-foot long one is most effective – with the winners being those who can stay on for longest.

A quaint English custom and a spectacle that attracts more than 3,000 visitors each year, all raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Of course, there will always be someone who is offended and, in this instance, an animal rights campaigner has called time on the event by denouncing it as disrespectful to the dead eel that is used.

Defendants of the activity point out the eels are not caught specifically for the slapping and say that endowing dead animals with rights is taking things a step too far. However, with the media spotlight on them, they have agreed to use a rubber mooring buoy next year.

I’m torn. Is slapping someone with a dead eel any more or less disrespectful than flushing a dead fish down the loo? Somewhere deep inside me, a primitive voice is protesting!

Wedding woes

I’ll bet one of our clients wished she’d had a dead eel to hand when her fiancé called off their wedding with only a matter of weeks to go. Instead, all she had were a heap of bills for the venue, the dress and the honeymoon, all of which were uninsured.

This sad situation has arisen a couple of times in my career and it always tests one’s communication skills and diplomacy. My opening line goes something like this: ‘It’s better to find out now rather than on the day itself,’ but such platitudes are of little consolation to the girl who can barely speak for crying as she asks what will happen about the honeymoon.

In this case, the honeymoon had been paid for by the groom’s parents who will lose 90% of the cost of the long-haul trip. In the past, I’ve known one couple take the honeymoon in spite of giving up on the wedding, just so the holiday didn’t go to waste. It wasn’t a great success though being on the rebound when sharing a room with an ex-fiancé proved more than tricky, but it did confirm for both parties that they were right to go their separate ways!

An issue to ad-dress

On a happier note, Penny’s clients booked to travel to Cyprus for their wedding, and were enjoying sorting out the finer points of the event. The only fly in the ointment was the transportation of the wedding dress, and it was with this issue they appeared in the shop this week.

When the airline was phoned for advice, the clients were told they would not accept the dress as hand luggage and the line promptly went dead. No room for negotiation there then.

The operator was called. They suggested it could be labelled ‘Fragile item’ but said it would still end up on the conveyor belt.

Back to the airline. The airline claimed not to have a ‘precious cargo’ facility. And so it went on, round and round like… well, like a luggage conveyor belt, with the bride to be growing ever more anxious.

Eventually she left her fiancé in the shop with Penny while she went to fetch her dress.

What a fuss about nothing! The dress, beautiful as it was in all its slimline simplicity, was wrapped in layers of tissue paper and packed in a small but elegant box that would quite happily fit into hand luggage.

Thank goodness those huge meringue-style dresses are out of vogue. Clearly wedding fashions are following airline requirements these days!

Please cover up!

It is proving to be an unusually warm British summer and I’m continually struck by our inability to cope with the heat. Once the mercury hits the high 20s, it seems summer becomes an emergency.

Among the biggest problems we seemingly have to contend with is what to wear. The TUC has called on employers to relax dress codes at work to help staff to deal with the heat and it seems they have evidence to support their cause. Apparently, abandoning traditional dress increased productivity in four out of five cases.

In the office, we have managed to stay smart but cool, but that cannot be said of all our clients and I’m beginning to think we could take a page out of the supermarkets’ books by introducing a dress code for clients.

Just as Tesco, Asda and the like are asking men to keep a shirt on and not dance down the aisles topless for hygiene reasons, so too should we ask our clients not to conduct their business semi-clad. It’s dreadfully off-putting to serve a gentleman with a bigger bust than oneself.

Of course, as one of the chaps in our office put it, it works the other way too. Ladies exposing too much cleavage could lead a man to opt for Bristol City when he really wanted to travel to Brussels…