It doesn’t pay to take a dump in the boss’s toilet as police detective Alois Mabhunu discovered after pinching a loaf in the presidential toilet during a trade fair in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe is not a man to cross at the best of times and Mabhuna has spend the past three weeks in custody awaiting sentencing.

 

The Welcome Institute’s latest exhibition is a bit of a mess but that’s hardly surprising given its subject matter.

Dirt charts our relationship with everything from soil and air pollution to household refuse, hospital bugs and excrement.

This, like so many of the institute’s previous offerings, could have been something special but comes across as messy and throwaway as its topic.

There’s even some pointlessly pretentious performance art thrown in the shape of drum majorettes twirling their batons in a deserted warehouse and a loop tape of someone washing their hands thrown in to wow! us chimps into thinking we’re missing something. However, Dirt does has its moments.

The Untouchables of India charged with cleaning out public latrines and drains – often with their bare hands -  and the Fresh Kills landfill site on Staten Island which is so big it can be seen from space are among the highlights.

A better bet is to head upstairs to the permanent exhibition of the museum’s namesake Henry Wellcome.

Wellcome, who founded one of the first pharmaceutical dynasties, collected a treasure trove of accumulated artefacts and oddities from a lifetime of kicking around the globe.

It is impossible to show all 125,000 items in his original collection but what is on show is a curio shop of the weird and wonderful guaranteed to slake the curiosity of even the most fervent voyeur.

There is a Chinese torture chair guaranteed to make your eyes water, a mummified Andean corpse, a box of 17th century Japanese sex aids and Charles Darwin’s rather groovy skull headed walking stick.

Other cabinets include a fine selection of prosthetic limbs, an assortment of surgical knives and bone saws and an early advertising board for a dentist which consists of a mobile of customers’ former teeth dangling from pieces of string.

A fine way to wile away a couple of hours if you can dodge the school trips and tourists.

 

It is a long time since I stumbled out of a nightclub or tent into dawn’s first light.

It all came back yesterday when I went for an early morning run and found clubland’s flotsam and jetsum staggering into the new day like outtakes from a George Romero movie.

It’s always easy to spot when someone is dolled up to the nines at 5am or staggering around with their fright wig and war paint still on.

I passed one guy sitting in the middle of a football pitch talking earnestly to himself. He asked if a bus was due soon and I gently pointed to the road about a mile away. The other person was walking down the road trying to hop scotch between the cat’s eye. And the drugs don’t work?

 

Fate throws a few opportune curve balls if you’re paying attention and willing to catch and run.

I was day dreaming on the bus, missed my stop and got off opposite Growing Life, a curiosity shop dedicated to hydroponics, indoor gardening, grow tents and seller of all manner of strange nutrients and additives.

I was lured in by the wormeries, an obviously blokey bait in retrospect. Why would you want a normal garden composter when you can have a binful of 2,000 ravenous wrigglers chomping their way through your leftovers?

You can be all pious and self righteous for doing your bit for the environment, are harnessing the power of the worm and have a show stopper of a pub conversation all rolled into one act of do-gooder eco weirdness.

The wriggly ones process around 500g of vegetable matter a week leaving a fine compost to spread on your garden or throw over the neighbour’s cat. I was also educated in the ways of worm tea,  a super nutrient made from mixing worm castings which are mixed with water and then oxygenated.

Of course, the real stars of the show are the worms whose names sound like the cast from an X-Men film: European Nightcrawler, Red Wriggler and the White Worm

 

The media does a fine job of whipping us into a righteous frenzy over the threat of Islamic fundamentalism but the Christians – or some lost soul’s personal interpretation of Christianity – are giving them a close run for their money.

The following message was posted through my letterbox on a blank sheet of paper the other night. Nice to see religious intolerance and the burning of the heretics is alive and well in the cyber age:

Repent of your sins. Repent of our wicked ways. repent of your evil deeds. Repent of your lustful ways. repent of your sexual immoralities. Repent of your laziness. Repent of your evil nature. Repent of your lying ways. repent of being corrupted in the heart. Repent of idolizing (Matt Goss?) Repent of judging others. Repent of cheating god. Repent of not being righteous. Repent of racism. Repent of hatred. repent of loving yourself too much. Repent of not loving Jesus. (Jesus will say to many Christians: “Go away. I never knew you.”).

Not exactly a laugh a minute, are they? Might as jump in the boneyard hole and pull the lid over myself now. Jim Jones here we come.

 

David Dickinson would have gone into cardiac arrest if he’d stumbled across this priceless antique in the local junk shop.

The Blue Snail of the Xing Chi Dynasty was commissioned by the Dragon King in the early 1500s and thought to have been destroyed in a feudal war that later raged across the province.

The snail was said to have the power of foresight and was revered as a magical totem.

Antique experts suggest it was used unwittingly for many years as an ornamental door stop in the Hong Kong Garden Takeaway in Leyton.

 

What was that your mum said about not dropping coins off buildings?

 

A curious selection of items waited to be returned to the shelves at the local checkout yesterday. A four pack of Tenants Supers, a packet of sanitary towels and a tube of Smarties. Would have been a hell of a party.

 

My barber is a right stoner. In hindsight, it’s most probably not a good idea to have someone cutting your hair under the influence but a visit is always entertaining and a master class in patience.

Mr Snips certainly knows the meaning of a leisurely haircut. No flashing scissors and production line head shearing here. It’s more of a leisurely probe through the follicles along with numerous breaks when he simply disappears into the adjoining kitchen for a smoke.

I went in today and after ten minutes off he goes. You could set a clock by it. A couple of minutes later I smell toast and the sound of him munching away while I sit dressed up in the chair like a shop dummy with a half shorn head. It’s not as thought I’m going to run off, is it? I hear him spark up and another couple minutes pass.

He drifts back in and carries on cutting my hair as if nothing’s happened. His brother comes in 20 minutes later and off he goes again for a smoke. Forty minutes later and he still hasn’t finished. I only asked for a short back and sides, not a red carpet job.

Someone else comes. One of stoner’s strange menagerie of friends. He looks like Boris Karloff and sits dead eyed and monosyllabic by the back wall saying nothing while stoner chirrups on about life to him. Same old shit. His holiday in Cyprus. Football. Traffic jams. Moaning about his utility bills. Boris raises his eyebrows and coughs at selected points but says nothing for the entire one sided conversation before asking for a cigarette and leaving.

I’m spoilt for choice between this and the world’s most miserable cafe down the drag. Shakespeare would love it.

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