Medical hoaxes

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Today I read about the hoax medical conditons Cello Scrotum and Guitar Nipple in The IndependantThe Daily Mail responded with a few stranger than fiction real maladies such as:


Occurs when sufferers lose control of a limb, most likely due to a faulty brain wiring. The ‘alien’ hand can prove most unhelpful — stubbing out a cigarette the other hand has just lit, or unzipping a fly the other has just zipped. Symptoms can be reduced by keeping the alien hand busy, by perhaps giving it a puzzle to unravel or object to hold. If all else fails, pop a tea cosy over it and hope it calms down.

Named after a French neurologist, this is a rare disorder in which a person believes he or she is either dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has somehow mislaid his or her blood and/or internal organs. It is a form of mental illness and is associated with depression. Treatment is difficult — electro-convulsive therapy has had more success than drugs.

Exclusive to Japanese tourists, this causes those from Japan to suffer mental breakdowns while sightseeing in the city of romance. The condition affects about 12 out of every million visitors and is a severe form of culture shock, which kicks in when they discover that neither Paris nor its inhabitants are quite as they appear in films.

Symptoms are exacerbated when they are confronted by rude French waiters and, unable to argue back, the mild-mannered Japanese are forced to bottle their anger up — causing full mental breakdowns. The only cure is a return flight home.

In a bid to stem the problems, the Japanese embassy has now set up a 24-hour hotline for tourists suffering from severe culture shock.

Named after Italian stage actor Leopoldo Fregoli, who was famous for his rapid changes of appearance. This is a rare disorder in which a person mistakenly believes that several different people are in fact one person who is changing appearance, or is in a series of very convincing disguises.

Renders sufferers unable to speak other than in whispers, rhymes or a rather startling falsetto.

It is caused by spasms which prevent the vocal cords vibrating properly. There is no cure, but Botox injections can ease symptoms temporarily.

Oddly, symptoms appear to vanish when sufferers sing or recite poetry.

Fantastic. There’s enough quirky there to keep me imagining characters for years. Sadly, the poor old Mail failed to notice all of today’s headlines about Cello Scrotum lead into discussion of guitar nipple being exposed as a hoax and published it as one of their real diseases. If only they’d read the articles that inspired their spin.

Things with Wings

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Today I brunched at Cafe Roma with a friend from India. At the end of our brunch I noticed a Supersoaker sitting beside the register and jokingly asked the waitress if it were for unruly customers. She said that they used the water gun on seagulls who pestered diners outside. They had found that if they added vinegar to the water the seagulls detested the smell so much that after being sprayed once they wouldn’t return. I liked that as a solution.

Dilip then told me that he knew of a man who released pigeons at the Red Fort at Agra in India. Tourists would pay him to let the birds out of the cages and fly free. Yet, after the tourists left, the birds always came back and climbed straight into their cages again. It turned out that the man who was caging them had fed them drugs and they returned to him to feed their addiction.

Only a day or two earlier, Meli had told me about her time doing bat research in the deep south of New Zealand. They would net bats, count and tag them, and release them again. On one occasion, under a full moon, the bats were flying and the nets came back full. Bats were picked out and tagged and, at some point, from under the heap someone pulled out a tiny baby bat. It had fallen from its mother’s pouch in the moment of being netted and its chances seemed slim. Someone tucked the tiny bat into their jersey, against their chest, and everyone continued work. As they released bats into the night all the rest of the colony flew around the zoologists in a whirling circle. Finally, their work was done, and still the bats flew. All the zoologists but the one with the baby left the area under the circling bats, and the baby was removed from its haven, and held as high as possible on the palm of  the remaining zoologist’s hand. A moment later the mother swooped in and seized her infant on the wing. All the bats wheeled and left with her.

Wonders and Finds

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I went on a library forage today and procured with intent to read:

The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan

The Shadow of the Lion by Mercedes Lackey, Dave Freer and Eric Flint

The Stone Fey by Robin McKinley

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris

The latter two are from the ‘Sookie Stackhouse Chronicles’ which the series True Blood was based on. I’ve recently watched and loved that series (its adult vampire detective  from HBO) and I think Anna Pacquin well deserved her Golden Globe for it. On my first brief dip into the books I found them immediately engaging and I am looking forward to getting to know the world of Bontemps a lot better.

Gwendolen the frog is proving to be a prodigy. She not only catches her flies by jumping straight up in the air to catch them in her mouth when they are on the wing,  I learned tonight that she can sit quite happily on the glass of her tank, even though it is straight up and down. Velcro frog.

I am finding some great  places to eat and helpful people recently. I’ve lived in Christchurch for a very long time but even so all of these I’ve only just discovered. So, I want to start sharing my finds be they human or culinary or experiential. I am definitely not paid to do this and many of these people don’t know me from Adam.

Finds for this week

*Copenhagen Bakery: Tiny tasty chicken pies and custard and strawberry filled croissants were my dinner tonight. Its the best bakery food I’ve ever had and stands up against the best French Patisseries I visited for taste and quality of product. It was inexpensive too. I’m going back tomorrow!

*Dr Linterman: The best dentist ever. I love this man. Not in a wrong way. Seriously good helpful people, fantastic skills, attention to comfort during the process. I’m really dentist phobic but I’m beginning to not mind stepping into his office.

*Rohan: I had a ring fall to bits some weeks ago and took it to Rohan Jewellers on Victoria St. They quoted an inexpensive price for repairs then went way above and beyond the call of duty to complete them to a high standard. To do this they ended up having to source a stone from Tanzania, and cut it in house, but they never raised the price of the beautifully finished repairs at all. Highly recommended if you need jewellery made or repaired.

*The Avon Riverbank, to the North of the Bridge of Rememberance, on the strip side: a fabulous spot for watching trout, salmon, eels, late ducklings, scops and paradise ducks at the moment. Nice dappled shade under trees – just avoid the duck splats.

Today I also decided to start sharing the wonderful little stories that I hear around Christchurch, the true ones, here. I heard this one at lunch in Drexels from my friend Rosie:

You know how if Camelias grow together they have a hollow space under them? When I was small my brother and I made that our Kingdom and he was the King.We played there until he got bored with it, and then my best friend and I took it over, and made it our Queendom… one day my grandfather gave me a strange pot. It was a lidded jar that was joined to the centre of a plate at its base. He told me that it was a magic pot and that by magic a different treat appeared in it every day. We kept it hidden in the Queendom and the trees were up against our fence. It took me years to figure out that my grandfather was traveling across town, climbing our fence, and secretly leaving me a different treat every single day and so I totally believed in magic.

I hear beautiful tales of  life in my world often enough, and so circulated and repeated, that I think we have a sort of neglected urban folklore in peoples treasured anecdotes. I mentally hoard all such stories that I hear and it’s entirely pleasant to begin taking them out of my head – where they are at  risk of being forgotten and cannot be seen and enjoyed – and storing them here for future reference.

A New Years Resolution

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One of my two New Years resolutions is to write more in this blog and spend more time working on the site in general! Updates are needed! The other resolution is to spend more time writing: how is it that every less important thing gets allowed to absorb so much time? I’m feeling very determined to put writing first.

O.K so the first piece of news is that there is a new person at the cottage. Her name is Gwendolen after a dear friend. She is a Frog of Great Character and sits on the stereo behind my desk. I am really enjoying her presence.


Things I have learned about Gwennie the Frog so far are
– She sinks her eyes back into her head when she sleeps and lids them heavily.
-She explores like mad whenever Im not looking.
-She has wonderful toes.
-There are lovely blue markings under her hind legs.

I understand that she is a Southern Bell Frog and will have a deep voice when she sings. says “This species was introduced to New Zealand in the late 1860s from Tasmania by the Canterbury Acclimisation Society.” So she’s not a native taken from the wilds which is nice. She appears to be thriving in her new home.

I found this whimsy and loved it:

Finally I hear that Drexels is about 60 days off opening its new branch in Riccarton and that the invitations to the opening party are in the mail. Awesome. Its going into Riccarton Mall and I’m sure will do well there. I’m looking forward to the celebrations!