Silly Saturday – Perplexing Puzzles

Every Saturday in the middle of the Weekend ‘I’ ( Independent ) newspaper you will find lots of the regular daily puzzles, but Sudokarrow only appears on Saturdays. Ordinary sudokus are boring, which is probably why a host of mathematically challenging puzzles have evolved. Each week I look at this puzzle in its pristine condition determined I will finish it correctly – and neatly. I think only once have I succeeded and by the time I’ve got it wrong it looks a complete mess. My young next door neighbour asked me if I read real paper newspapers, but it turned out he wasn’t interested in which newspaper (political views) or how many puzzles I managed to do – he just needs a supply of paper to light his wood burning stove! Do you get a newspaper for the news or the puzzles?

This was the picture round in our Zoom Quiz last week. Just say what you see. eg 17 is ice cube. I got 18 right and I can’t recall the answers to the ones I didn’t get, so I may not be able to help if you can’t get them all!

Quiz Planet is an on line quiz that you can play with friends who haven’t got anything better to do or with complete strangers who don’t have anything better to do either, it is quite addictive. If it’s your turn you get to choose the subject; science, music, body and soul etc, but the downside is that your friend will see what stupid wrong answers you got. If they challenge you they may pick topics you have no chance of answering, such as celebrities or beauty and fashion. I do better than Zoom quiz as the questions are multiple choice and some answers are so stupid you can pick the right one even if you have never heard of the person or place.

Here are some examples for you to try, with the advantage of not having to answer in ten seconds like the real quiz.

Who was the previous president of the USA? 1. Ghengis Khan 2. Vlad The Impaler 3. Donald Trump 4. Abraham Lincoln

Which of these is an insect? 1. horse 2. whale 3. grasshopper 4. cat

Who played Maria in The Sound of Music? 1. Sharon Stone, 2. Julie Andrews 3. Whoopi Goldberg 4. Megan Markle

The capital city of Australia is 1. Canberra 2. San Francisco 3. Oslo 4. Beijing

If you had an appendectomy what would you have removed? 1. finger 2. appendix 3. leg 4. head

And here is one I got wrong earlier, somehow missing the obvious…. Which star is closest to the earth 1. Alpha Centauri 2. Sirius 3. Epsilon Eridani 4. THE SUN

Here are the correct answers, but not necessarily in the right order; appendix, Canberra, THE SUN, Donald Trump, Julie Andrews and grasshopper.

How did you do? Are you tempted to join in?

Quiz Planethttps://quizplanet.game/

Friday Flash Fiction 727 – Zoom

Susan doubted that the Crafton Castle Crafters were ready for the online world, a year into the pandemic and they were only just having their first Zoom meeting. Jenny had been urging them on and as she was home schooling her six children they all agreed she was best qualified to be host.

The Crafton Castle Crafters didn’t actually meet at the castle, but at the First Crafton Scouts’ hut. They did pay a hefty contribution to be ‘Friends of Crafton Castle’ and on their frequent visits, pre-Covid, they gained inspiration from the famous tapestries, carved wood panelling and beautiful gardens. Susan had been very disappointed that their various gifts of samplers, marquetry and pottery had not featured in the castle’s recent on line exhibition ‘Now and Then’. She was looking forward to hearing what the other members thought.

Susan scrolled down on her ipad to find the email with the link and soon was faced with the message Your host will let you in shortly. 7pm they were meant to start, the minutes ticked by, 7.05, 7.09… Suddenly the screen was filled with the faces of lots of grumpy old people looking confused. Then Jenny appeared in a corner of the screen.

‘Sorry everyone, bedtime stories and I had to reassure Guinevere that the Covid monster could not get in their bedroom. Now have we got everyone? Giles has managed to co opt a couple of his bored sixth formers, Josie chicken wire sculptures and Ben junk statues. Hello Josie and Ben…’

Susan peered closer at the tiny views of living rooms, offices and kitchens; not how she would have imagined Martin’s place. She didn’t recognise Graham at first with that beard and who on earth was Bryony? She was sitting on a floral sofa looking very demure and how had she managed to get her hair done so nicely during lock down, or was it a wig?

Jenny was still talking. ‘…and I’m still trying to negotiate a socially distanced cream tea in the castle gardens. Now who wants to start? I’ve finished another three dozen masks from my fabric scraps and made the curtains for the girls’ bedroom with matching duvet covers. George, we can’t hear what you are saying, you’re still on mute. Phyllis, tell us what you have been up to.’

‘Oh, um yes, can you hear me…’

‘Yes, loud and clear.’

‘I have nearly finished that bookmark knitted with sewing needles and sewing cotton… oh dear, that’s my phone ringing…’

Susan tried to keep a straight face as Phyllis heaved her bulk out of the chair. They all watched as she waddled the two steps to grab the telephone. Her voice was picked up perfectly and broadcast into all their homes.

‘Phyllis, put yourself on mute.’

‘Oh hello dear, oh no, how many bits did they have to take out? Has he got one of those bags? No it’s awful you can’t go and see him.’

‘Phyllis, you have to put yourself on mute, the rest of us can’t hear ourselves.’

‘Well I must go, we’re having a Zoom meeting. You didn’t know I was so tech savvy did you. The crafters, hilarious, they have all aged about ten years in lock down, except for Brian.’

Susan noticed a variety of expressions on the faces of the others as they tried to pretend they weren’t listening. Josie and Ben had broad grins. Phyllis was now laughing and struggling to get out her next words.

‘Yes… six foot four Woodwork Brian has become Bryony during lockdown, well you can tell, but he’s a lot more glamorous than most of our ladies. Jenny took him clothes shopping in between lockdowns.’

Susan peered closer at the top left hand square containing ‘Bryony’ and wondered how Phyllis knew all this gossip. Then she glanced down at Josie and Ben; they were obviously enjoying the meeting far more than they might have expected.

‘Byebye dear, yes and you…

Phyllis put the phone down.

‘Sorry about that everyone.’

‘Well I’m sure we shall gradually get used to Zoom’ said Jenny. ‘I think Phyllis has rather pre-empted the announcement Bryony wanted me to make on hi… her behalf.

Susan felt the gloom of the past few months lift, what a fun evening, she couldn’t resist speaking out.

‘Well, we’re really members of the BLTGCHQ Community now.’

Saturday Short Story – Zoom

Vivienne put the last book back, vowing to look at the collection more often; seven months of Covid lockdown and she had only just got around to emptying the family heirloom bookcase and giving everything a good dust. The motivation had been to find questions for the quiz and the bookcase certainly held an eclectic selection, from her father’s favourite books to the colourful educational books they had bought for James and Julia. When her son popped in at lunchtime he had remarked that all knowledge could be found on the internet, with a lot less dusting involved. Vivienne retorted that the internet did not make the words of wisdom in books defunct, at which point James had picked up the book that had been his favourite when he was ten. Fun Facts From the Future. Few of the predictions of thirty five years ago had come true; Vivienne had not gone to see her cousin in Australia on a three hour flight in Concorde Mark Three, nor were her grandchildren living in an Eden Project style plastic bubble on the Moon. The only bubbles being lived in were Covid bubbles.

Sitting with a much needed cup of tea Vivienne pondered on her family’s lives. James had worked hard leading the plans to get some staff back to work at MPJ, only to have Boris telling everyone on Monday to stay at home again. Her son’s second project had at least resulted in him moving out, though not to the respectable sort of town flat she imagined divorced men in their forties aspired to. To prove that adapting empty office buildings for the homeless was a viable proposition, he had moved into the MPJ building himself.

Julia, worried her mother would feel lonely without James clumping around, had invited Vivienne to join in the Saturday evening Zoom Quiz she ran for her friends. Vivienne found it more fun than she expected and wondered why she had not been invited earlier, though it was easy to guess that Julia did not want her brother joining in and getting top scores. The two quiz evenings so far had been an eye opener; Julia’s friends teased and said things to her that Vivienne would never dare, but they seemed to be a nice bunch. They were also clever, but the simple format meant no one saw or heard your wrong or silly answers. There were no technical challenges, you just wrote your answers down on paper, it was all done on trust. Vivienne was totally honest, though she did give herself the odd point when she could picture perfectly the famous person, it was just the names that escaped her brain. She had never intended to take a turn at quizmaster and was not sure how that happened, but she was pleased with the five varied rounds of ten questions she was planning.

On Saturday evening Vivienne was linked in or logged on, whatever you called it and the chatter was lively, so lively she wondered when they were going to get started.

How many flowers can you find in an English country garden?… no that’s not the question, that’s the title of Round 1. What is the proper name for snapdragons, make sure you spell it correctly to score the point…

Round 2 Classic Fifties television programmes…  

Round 3 Happy 250th Birthday Beethoven…

During the ten minute break the chat was lively.

Has your mother been on Mastermind Julia?

Why are we celebrating now if his birthday’s not till December?

I know he wrote nine symphonies, but who on earth would know how many piano sonatas he wrote…

Round 4 is easier, general knowledge

What is the smallest island in the world that is still a sovereign state?…

…I thought you would find the general knowledge easy. Never mind, Round 5 is just a bit of fun… Predictions of the future that never came true…

Friday Flash Fiction – Home Schooling

‘Mummy, Mummy, Jason’s got his elbow on my side of the table.’
Julia gritted her teeth. Ten minutes, they had only been working for ten minutes and it had taken half an hour before that to get them settled. The twins were perfectly suited to social distancing, each intensely aware of their personal space.
‘No I didn’t, Jacintha touched my pencil and I don’t want to catch Covid.’
‘You won’t catch anything in this house Jason.’
Having a husband who was a chief administrator at a large hospital, now full of Covid 19 patients, was a mixed blessing, especially as pandemics tended to bring on his OCD. Julia may have thought his job less important and less dramatic than being a real doctor, but Jack didn’t. He had become insufferably self important after appearing on the BBC news. His administrative skills had been extended to the family and their home.
In the unlikely event of the twin’s primary school actually opening properly in June or July, Jason and Jacintha would not be attending. Her husband had done an extensive risk assessment and sent back the parent survey with some caustic comments and after all, Julia was at home to take care of home schooling.
Being made redundant from her job as head of fashion at Billings Department Store had been a bitter blow, though not unexpected. Sir Geoffrey Billings must be turning in his grave. The elegant Art Deco building was a neglected shadow of its former self. The business had been in slow decline since the beginning of the Twenty First Century. Customers who never set foot in the place gathered like vultures for the closing down sales, their grubby hands rifling through racks of garments they could never have afforded before. The empty building then stood as a foretaste of things to come. Now no one was going shopping.
Julia had just started enjoying the rest from work and pleasant days at the spa when the whole country went into lockdown. Of course her disappointments were nothing compared to other people’s problems and tragedies, her family were all safe, she didn’t have to go to a food bank and she didn’t have to worry about her mother now her brother was living there.
She sneaked a look at the Perfect Parents Facebook group on her phone.
Even if he has to wear a space suit he’s going to school on 1st June.
1st June 2021 more like. 
Anyone in Mrs. Griffiths’ class managed to do the worksheet?
Zoom and Wine tonight?

Julia jumped as the ring tone sounded.
‘Mum, everything alright, you don’t usually call this early. We’re a bit busy, the children are just finishing their work sheets, then we have six BBC Bite lessons to catch up with. Yes it is half term next week that’s why we’re trying to get everything done today.’
Julia looked up as the blank worksheets slid to the floor and Jason stabbed Jacintha’s scalp with his pencil.
‘I just rang to say we saw Jack on the news last night.’
‘I’ve seen him on the news ten times, same clip… I’ve heard it on the radio six times.’
‘He must be very important… what is it he does exactly? Only Penny just Whatsapped to say she’d seen him and she was asking…’

Jack was late home again so Julia was grateful to join in Zoom and Wine.
Half Term, thank goodness, but Scarlet has really earned it, bless her. We’ve done every single BBC Bite and she’s written her own book.
Alfie has done one BBC Bite and two lines of writing this week, do you think we could swap?
Jack thinks I’ve got the twins in such a good routine that we should just carry on working over half term…