QUIRKY WORLD... Driver passes her test at 24th attempt

If at first you don’t succeed, the old proverb recommends a path of relentless perseverance. But one young learner driver took the "try, try, try again" mantra to the limit when she passed her driving test at the 24th attempt.

The 24-year-old woman, whose identity has not been revealed, secured her status as Britain’s most persistent learner driver when she finally ditched her L-plates at a test centre in Chippenham last year.

The woman was one of eight Britons to have racked up at least 20 tests by the end of 2013, according to figures obtained from the Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency by the Press Association. The data, provided under Freedom of Information laws, stated that 10 drivers amassed a total of 200 fails between them before passing. Of them, four were male drivers and six were women.


USA: Washington state has issued its first retail marijuana licences in a series of middle-of-the-night emails alerting bleary-eyed pot-shop proprietors that they will finally be able to open for business.

An official said the first 24 shops were being notified so early to give them an extra few hours to get cannabis on their shelves before they were allowed open their doors yesterday morning. The move is expected to bring high prices, shortages, and rationing.

At Cannabis City in Seattle, owner James Lathrop worked into the night placing no-parking signs, hoisting a grand-opening banner, and hanging artwork. “I’ve had a long day. It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said, adding that he planned to hold off opening until noon. He said: “Know your audience: We’re talking stoners here. I’d be mean to say they need to get up at 5am to get in line.”


USA: John Fletcher gets a bang out of firecrackers — especially those he wraps around himself.

The 51-year-old Michigan performer’s act includes setting off 10,500 firecrackers attached to his body, The Detroit News reported.

“I guess I’m a little nuts,” said Fletcher, who goes by the name Ghengis John the Human Firecracker. “I got a little bit of ‘Hey, look at me.’”

He performed last weekend before 300 people and four firefighters at a motorcycle rally in the western Michigan town of Coopersville. It was one in a string of shows that Fletcher said would be his last.

Fletcher said that over 16 years, he has set off 600,000 firecrackers attached to his body. His ribs have been fractured 17 times and once Fletcher says he was knocked unconscious. He has also been burned.

The gravel pit scale operator from Pinckney doesn’t get paid for his performances and asks audiences to donate to charities.

It costs $140 (€103) and takes two weeks to put together his firecracker suit, which are strands of firecrackers glued to four leather sheets that Fletcher hangs over his abdomen, back, and arms. He wears safety glasses and a compressed leather vest.


USA: An obscure, chicken-sized bird best known for its mating dance could help determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the US senate after November elections.

The federal government is considering listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species next year. Doing so could limit development, energy exploration, hunting, and ranching on the 165m acres of the bird’s habitat across 11 western states.

It has become a key issue in Senate races because — apart from the potential economic disruption — the issue is reviving centuries-old debates about local vs federal control and whether to develop or conserve the region’s vast expanses of land. Republicans need to gain six seats in November to capture majority control.


ENGLAND: A hedgehog-friendly garden which shows nature lovers how to help the spiky species is featuring among the exhibits at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

The ‘Hedgehog Street’ garden aims to raise awareness of the plight of the threatened mammals, whose populations have plummeted by more than a third in the last 10 years, and how to help them, the conservationists behind the display said.

The garden is one of many exhibits at this year’s Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Flower Show, which also features turf sculptures, a floating rose crafted from cranberries, and a luxury tree-house.

There will even be an “invisible garden” exhibit which allows people to discover the microscopic wildlife in their gardens.


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