Funny Directory Enquiries Calls

Anyone who works in a call centre will get their fair share of challenging calls to deal with but, as a number of directory assistance operators have experienced, some of these calls can be downright bizarre! We found a few entertaining transcripts showing some interesting queries and some very patient operators.

A caller asked for a knitwear company in a place called Woven…

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Woven? Are you sure?

CALLER: Yes. That’s what it says on the label: “Woven in Scotland”.

CALLER: I’d like the RSPCA please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Where are you calling from?

CALLER: The living room.

CALLER: The Water Board please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Which department?

CALLER: Tap water.

CALLER: I’d like the number of the Argoed Fish Bar in Cardiff, please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: I’m sorry but there’s no listing. Is the spelling correct?

CALLER: Well, it used to be called the Bargoed Fish Bar, but the ‘B’ fell off.

CALLER: I’d the number for a reverend in Cardiff, please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Do you have his name?

CALLER: No, but he has a dog named Ben.

CALLER: The Union of Shopkeepers and Alligators please.

DIRECTORY ENQUIRIES: Do you mean the Amalgamated Union of Shopkeepers?

Rule Breakers and Record Makers: 10 Facts About the Oscars

The 87th Academy Awards will be taking place this Sunday evening (or 1:30am Monday morning for us Brits). Here’s your chance to brush up on your awards trivia:

1. There are only three films in the history of the Oscars that have walked away with the “Big Five” awards (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay): It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoos’s Nest (1975) and Silence of the Lambs (1991). 

2. Midnight Cowboy (1969) is the first and only X-rated (as per American film ratings) film to win the Best Picture Oscar (the rating has since been reduced to R). The only other X-rated film to be nominated in this category was A Clockwork Orange (1971).

3. The only actor to win an Oscar for portraying an Oscar winning actor is Cate Blanchett who played Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator.

4. John Williams has racked up a staggering 49 nominations to date (45 of which are for Best Score). However, he is beaten on this record by Walt Disney who was nominated 59 times with 26 wins!

5. Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Since then, animated films Up (2010) and Toy Story 3 (2011) have been nominated in this category. Beauty and the Beast lost out to Silence of the Lambs but did take home the award for Best Original Score.

6. The sealed envelope was first introduced at the 13th Academy Awards in 1941 after the Los Angeles Times had leaked voting results in 1939.

7. Bob Hope hosted the Academy Awards 18 times between 1940 and 1978. The next most frequent host is Billy Crystal who has hosted 9 times between 1990 and 2012.

8. Seat fillers are employed at the Awards Ceremony to make the place look full if people either haven’t shown up or someone has temporarily vacated their seat e.g. to accept an award. The only people who can apply for this position are relatives of people who work at the Academy or employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers (the accounting firm that counts the votes).

9. There are many rumours surrounding Marisa Tomei’s Best Supporting Actress win in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny. Few had anticipated that the relative newcomer would win against the other veteran actresses in her category. There was speculation that the presenter, an elderly Jack Palance, had misread the name and the Academy were too embarrassed to correct the mistake. Another claim is that the other four nominees split the vote to such an extent that the only solution was to allow an underdog (Tomei) to take home the award.

10. The number of blondes to win the Best Actress Award is 18; the number of brunettes is 45.

Leading from Behind – Some Bands Named for a Man at the Back

In the jazz and swing era, the instance of the naming of a band by someone other than the front person was quite common, but in the rock and pop era, this is quite unusual.

Here are a few exceptions:-

Fat Larry’s Band

Known in most territories for their single big 1982 hit, if you view the video of “Zoom” below you’re probably not going to be surprised to learn that Fat Larry was not the singer but was in fact that large chap on the drums. Sadly, and perhaps (again) not surprisingly Larry passed away just five years after this record hit the top.

The Dave Clark Five

It remains fairly unusual for a pop or rock drummer to be a band’s leader (Phil Collins and Don Henley being notable exceptions) but drummer Dave Clark (also the manager and executive producer) didn’t sing on those sixties hits such as “Glad All Over” and “Bits and Pieces”; here they are with the latter song in 1964:-

Manfred Mann

Keyboard player Manfred is not the singer of either the band’s sixties era or the later “Earth Band” who hit the charts in the 70s with a Springsteen cover. You can see the chirpy Paul Jones singing below:-

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes

This one is something of an exception; Harold was the original singer of this “Philly sound” vocal group, but he stepped back to let Teddy Pendergrass sing on their biggest hits, notably “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way”.

Here are the band performing in matching blue suits (of course) on Soul Train. Teddy is handling the miming of lead vocals, and Harold is to his right. The “Dad dancing” part is at 1.57

Sadly in 1982 Teddy was badly injured in a car crash that left him a quadraplegic. He performed at 1985’s Live Aid concert in a wheelchair, and passed away in 2010.

The Spencer Davis Group

Spencer was  the guitarist. The band featured Steve Winwood who sang on their hits “Keep on Running”, “Gimme Some Lovin” and “I’m a Man” before leaving to form Traffic. Here they are in 1965:-

Fleetwood Mac

The decision by lead guitarist and singer Peter Green to name his blues band after his drummer and bass player has left a legacy that has endured for almost a half century.

In this clip of “Oh Well” you can see the beardless Mick Fleetwood on drums and bassist John McVie at the extreme left, slightly in the shadows.

Also mentioned:-

  • Van Halen
  • Santana (Carlos rarely sings)
  • Mike and the Mechanics

Sadly there was no Herman in the Hermits.

999, 101 and Directory Enquiries Confusion

We suspect that most people have read, seen or heard news stories about absurd calls to the 999 emergency service. It’s always an enjoyable read; one can smugly chuckle at the antics of the callers as they attempt to obtain help for their predicament from understandably unsympathetic and in some cases exasperated 999 operators.

Recently, however, it has come to our attention that:-

In the light of this disturbing information, we thought that we would help to clarify the correct usage of these numbers.

  1. If you need to report a genuine emergency, dial 999.
  2. If you need to speak to the police about a non-emergency matter, dial 101.
  3. If you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency, or you think you need to go to A & E or need another NHS urgent care service, you don’t know who to call or you don’t have a GP to call, or you need health information or reassurance about what to do next, dial 111.
    For more information on the 111 number please visit the 111 website.
  4. If you need a directory enquiries service, please call 118 365 (remember “118, every day”). It’s only 51p, Other (usually much more expensive) services are available.

My 5 Most Recently Downloaded Apps (iPhone)

1. Sleep Time – £1.49

This is an alarm clock with a difference – it monitors and analyses your sleep cycles by sensing your movements throughout the night. It then uses this information to wake you up when it knows you are no longer in the deep  stage of REM cycle. So no more waking up feeling groggy!


2. TwinPics – Free

A simple but nicely designed memory game. All you do is match up as many pairs as you can within a limited time, avoiding obstacles along the way. The colours and photography used are stylish and attractive and it’s easy to dip in and out of making it the perfect game for when you just have a few minutes to fill.

3. BBC News – Free

This is more of a recent update than download as I have had the app for a while, however, about a week ago, the BBC released its first major redesign since the app launched in 2010. The app now offers a much more personalised view of the news as it includes local news content and you can select the topics that interest you the most.

4. SkinDeep – Free

Do you know what chemicals are in your personal care products? EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database is the world’s largest safety reference tool for personal care products and the app provides information on more than 72,000 products. Enter the product name into the app and it assesses the ingredients and how they may affect your health. It then calculates a hazard score allowing you to make informed purchasing decisions.

5. Serial –  Free

This is actually a podcast, not an app, but I felt it was well worth a mention. The 12-part series (you can now download all the episodes from the website) follows journalist Sarah Koenig as she investigates a murder case from 1999 in which a high-school student was found dead in a Baltimore Park having been strangled. Her ex-boyfriend was charged with her murder and sentenced to life in prison but has protested his innocence ever since. The podcast is totally addictive and a great way to pass the time on your commute.

Pulling Apart Two Phone Books

There’s a rumour around these parts that two interleaved (yes that’s a word) phone books are impossible to pull apart, so I decided to investigate.

It didn’t take me long to get to the bottom of this, and no I did not sit and methodically interleave two phone books. A quick Google search unearthed a Mythbusters YouTube video where it took two military tanks weighing in at 30 tonnes to separate the phone books. So, difficult yes, but not impossible.

What is it that creates such a strong link between these two stacks of paper?

Apparently it all comes down to weight and friction. Interleaving the pages of the phone books significantly increases the weight on each of them as the bottom pages have the weight of two phone books pushing down on them in addition to gravity. Add to this the force of friction, which is also increased by the act of interleaving the pages, and you have a bond that takes 3629 Kilogram of force to break as demonstrated by the Mythbusters.

If you do have some spare time (and are really, really bored) you can try this yourself. Just lay the pages of two phone books on top of each other one at a time, then try and pull them apart.

Postcodes explained

Christmas is just three weeks away and many of you (ok, some of you) will be writing your cards, buying stamps and desperately searching for your address book. Obviously your cards need accurate addresses in order to reach their intended destination, but what about the series of numbers and letters at the bottom of an address? What exactly is in a postcode?

Why do I need to use a postcode?

Postcodes allow your item to be processed quickly and accurately by pinpointing exactly where it needs to go. A single postcode is not unique to one address; usually a small group of addresses will share one postcode and the specific property will be identified by a house name or number. Using a correct postcode will allow your mail to go through the Royal Mail’s automated sorting machines. Mail without a postcode will have to be sorted manually and this takes much longer.

So how do postcodes work?

A postcode is split into four sections, each of which narrows down the destination. I’ll use the Simunix postcode (YO10 5NP) to demonstrate what each section means.


The first one or two letters identify the postcode area, in this case the YORK area, and therefore the main Royal Mail sorting office that will process the mail.


This part is usually either one or two numbers but some London postcodes contain a number and letter. This is the postcode district and tells the sorting office which delivery office the mail should go to.


The third part tells the delivery office which local area the mail should go to. This section usually just contains one number.


The final part always contains two letters and identifies groups of up to 80 addresses. This unit code tells the delivery office which postal route will deliver the mail.

How do I correctly address an envelope then?

The least amount of information that should be included in an address includes:

House name/number

Street name


Postcode (in capitals)

You do not need to include a County name if all the above information is provided. Of course, you may also wish to include the recipient’s name and perhaps a company or organisation name.

If you’re not sure what the correct postcode is for an address, you can look it up here by entering the address information you do have.

The latest recommended posting dates for Christmas 2014 (UK Inland) are:

Thursday 18th December – 2nd Class

Saturday 20th December – 1st Class

The amazing potato powered clock!

A few weeks back I suddenly had an epiphany that my 5 year old son would be really impressed by a potato battery! So after a few failed attempts, last night I finally got a working electrolyte battery to power a clock. It was using a teaspoon of salt in a cup of malt vinegar instead of a few potatoes but was “impressive” nonetheless.

Vinegar solution battery

My first attempts didn’t work and I’m not 100% sure what was incorrect as I didn’t follow scientific method properly but I used:

2/3 lemons (not that fresh)  with galvanised nails and 2p coins
2-4 small potatoes with galvanised nails and 2p coins
sweet potatoes with galvanised nails and 2p coins

None of them worked but I was led to believe that the amount of fruit / vegetables used connected in series would provide sufficient voltage so now I’m pretty sure it was that the 2p coins didn’t contain enough copper. (I should have used pre-1992 coins as these are 97% copper).

Last nights effort was a malt vinegar and salt solution, some zinc plated screws and some copper plumbing scraps I found in my garage. I connected 2 ramekins of the vinegar solution (about 100ml in each) in series which gave me enough volts to power the clock.

Band Aid 30 helping to fight the spread of Ebola

Band Aid 30 received its world premiere last night during X Factor’s results show after only just being recorded the day before. The single can be downloaded for 99p and is helping fund relief efforts to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

It has been 30 years since “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, written by Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, was first released raising over £8 million for famine relief in Ethiopia. Stars such as Sting, Duran Duran, Bono and George Michael were part of the original ensemble.

Since then there have been two other versions. The 1989 version achieved less historical significance than its predecessor but did manage to hold the number 1 spot in the UK singles chart for three weeks. This version featured Bananarama (in a repeat appearance), Jason Donovan, Kylie Minogue and Cliff Richard amongst others.

The next version to be released came in 2004, 20 years after the original, in order to benefit Sudan’s troubled Darfur region. Bono, Paul McCartney and George Michael were the only members of the original ensemble to lend their voices this time performing alongside Chris Martin, Sugababes, Robbie Williams and The Darkness, to name a few.

The line up for Band Aid 30 includes Coldplay, Bastille, Rita Ora, Paloma Faith, Ellie Goulding, One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith, with Bono making his third contribution to a Band Aid recording. Lyrics have been tweaked in this version to reflect the current Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

The single can be downloaded here.

All Hallows’ Eve descends on the streets of the UK

If, like me, you will be accompanying little ghouls and goblins tomorrow night as they threaten your neighbours with mischief, you may be interested to know there are a surprisingly large number of streets in the UK suitably named for the occasion.

After trawling our data, we found quite a number of street names relating to mythical creatures and other spooky folks. There’s Goblins Green (Welwyn Garden City), Vampire Road (Louth), Giants Grave Road (Neath), Bleeding Wolf Lane (Stoke on Trent) and Conjurers Drive (Knighton).

What’s to be found during the witching hour on Witches Walk (Bridgewater), Cauldron Meadows (Swanage), Coven Close (Walsall) or Broomstick Lane (Chesham) we wonder?

It would seem the Devil himself has also laid claim to many streets around the UK with The Devils Highway to be found in Crowthorne as well as Hell Lane in Chideock, Bridport and Dark Gate in Carmarthen.

Never one to be ignored, the Hangman makes an appearance in many a town and village. In Troon, it may serve you well to steer clear of Hangman’s Hill on a dark night or Gallows Green (Alton) and Noose Crescent (Willenhall).

Other uninviting street names include Dead Lane (Colchester), Strange Road (Wigan), Lurk Lane (Beverley), Creeping Lane (Penzance), Haunts Cottages (Crewkerne) and Bloodhills (Great Yarmouth). If you’re the superstitious type, you might avoid Black Cat Drive in Northampton or for the arachnophobes among us *puts hand up*, Spider Island in Salisbury sounds particularly ominous.

If however, you will be remaining safely locked up in your own home tomorrow night, how about getting into the Halloween spirit with some of my scary movie recommendations? Here’s my top 13 (unlucky for some…)

  1. The Exorcist
  2. Paranormal Activity
  3. The Amityville Horror
  4. The Woman in Black
  5. The Shining
  6. Don’t Look Now
  7. Poltergeist
  8. What Lies Beneath
  9. Silence of the Lambs
  10. Arachnophobia
  11. Scream
  12. An American Werewolf in London
  13. 28 Days Later