QUIRKY WORLD ... Pope looks to the past for a clear vision of the future

ITALY:  Pope Francis slipped out of the Vatican to make a surprise visit to a Rome optician’s shop to get a new pair of glasses, insisting that his old frames be reused and that he would pay for them.

Francis was driven to Ottica Spiezia on Rome’s fancy Via del Babuino in the small Ford Focus car he normally uses, drawing a large crowd of tourists and Romans.

The shop owner, Alessandro Spiezia, who has made eyeglasses for the Pope before but always delivered them to the Vatican though aides, said he did not know that the Pope himself would come to the shop.

“He had told me to use the old frames again because he did not want to spend much money and insisted on paying for them,” Spiezia said.

The Pope arrived with one of his secretaries, a driver, and several plainclothes police. He remained inside the shop for about half an hour as Spiezia explained the use of the new eyeglasses to him.

Francis then greeted crowds outside before returning to the Vatican on the other side of the Tiber River.

Off the hook


A sea eagle chick which ingested two fishing hooks has been successfully returned to the wild.

The Scottish SPCA took the six-week-old bird into its care from Loch Arkaig in Lochaber, Scottish Highlands, in June. The white-tailed sea eagle, named Brahma, was operated on at the charity’s rescue centre in Fishcross, Clackmannanshire, and made a full recovery. He was released close to his nest site on August 15.

Rescue centre manager Colin Seddon said: “There were several people involved in Brahma’s rescue and recovery, and without them he would not have survived.”

Shear class


An overgrown sheep found lost in Australian scrubland was shorn for perhaps the first time — yielding 42kg of wool, the shearer said.

The woolly coat dwarfed that of a New Zealand hermit ram, dubbed Shrek, who took six years to grow his massive fleece that weighed 27kg when it was clipped in 2004. Shrek was often described as a record.

Champion shearer Ian Elkins said the bulky Australian merino sheep, dubbed Chris, appeared to be in good condition after being separated from his huge fleece under anaesthetic. Chris was found near Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary outside Canberra by bushwalkers who feared he would not survive the imminent summer.

Job ad with a difference


A pensioner has placed a newspaper advertisement offering €5,000 to any employer who would hire his 39-year-old son, a “desperate” unemployed father of one.

“Pensioner offers €5,000 to company who hires his unemployed son, qualified, responsible and hard-working with good references, pay negotiable according to contract, absolute discretion,” the ad in El Heraldo de Aragon newspaper said.

Concerns about Spanish unemployment, the second-highest in Europe at 22.4%, are at the centre of the campaign for a general election to be held in December.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy, ahead in polls but expected to fall short of a majority, is seeking to overcome scepticism that an economic recovery is filtering down.

The pensioner, a retired lawyer, said he could not watch his son suffer without doing anything.

“The advert might look undignified, but I lost my sense of shame a long time ago,” said the pensioner, who did not want to give his name. His son has been unemployed for several months.

“In the newspaper classified section, Mariano Rajoy’s recovery,” Pablo Echenique, a leading member of the anti-austerity party Podemos, said in a message on Twitter accompanying a photo of the advertisement.


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