Happy Christmas Jumper Day readers! After weeks of opinion polls, memes and TV debates, Diary is boycotting the election.
We could pretend that this is a bold political point about the utter drivel that has been spouted over the last few weeks, rendering the outcome of the result effectively meaningless. But it is actually because today is the Civil Society Media Christmas party (which was booked before the election), and the editor said Diary had to file the copy the day before or it would be spiked.
Anyway this week we delve into the flawed genius of Ben Stokes and his, tenuous, connection to some fundraising, as well as the unexpected places you find the odd £20,000 and report on a very clever elf.
Cricket, parkrun and erm, exposed flesh
Diary knows for a fact that some readers of this column are big fans of cricket, and recognise Ben Stokes for the flawed genius that he is.
Diary also knows for a fact, however, that many more of you couldn’t care less, and barely know who Ben Stokes is.
Well if you’re in the latter group then please stay with us, because this story also contains two absolute Diary staples: exposed human flesh and wacky fundraising challenges.
But first, we do need to talk a little bit of cricket. When Ben Stokes almost single-handedly wrenched England to victory over Australia at Headingley this summer, it was literally one of the most amazing things ever seen in cricket. Botham in 1981? Flintoff in 2005? Bristol nightclub incident in 2018? All forgotten.
England needed 73 more runs with one wicket remaining. Teams simply don’t win from that position. And in fact at the start of that fourth innings, England needed 359 runs to win, which was also highly unlikely.
So much so that Jonathan Lamley from Nottingham pledged on Facebook that if England managed it, he would do a parkrun in just his underpants and flip flops. In December.
Guess what month it is now. December! And true to his word, Lamley and a friend Mike Macdonald completed the pledge, even posing at the starting line wearing Ben Stokes masks. In the process they raised £2,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Exposed flesh? Check. Fundraising? Check. Good on you lads!
Unexpected places for £20,000
One of the great joys of this time of year is getting a winter coat out of the wardrobe and finding a forgotten few pounds in the pocket. Indeed, one survey has found that Brits count this as the number one small victory in life.
Diary wholeheartedly agrees but can’t begin to imagine how finding an unexpected £20,000 must feel.
Well, if you really want to know then ask the staff at scrap metal dealer Sackers, which is based near Ipswich. Earlier this year staff were cutting up a number of safes for scrapping, when they found one contained around £20,000.
“It had been in there a long while, the money was very dusty and we didn’t count it all, but we guestimate that there was £20,000 in there, but not all legal tender anymore which shows how long it had been left for,” yard manager Kevin Harrington said at the time.
Being upstanding citizens, the team handed the money over to the police, who have not been able to trace its rightful owner. Therefore, Sackers has been named as the legal owner of the money.
But, as the Ipswich Star reports, the story doesn’t end there. After a trip to the Bank of England to swap the old notes for current ones, Sackers are donating all the money to the East Anglian Children's Hospice (EACH) and St Elizabeth Hospice.
A welcome Christmas boost from a most unexpected source.
A very clever elf
Action for Children is using artificial intelligence in its Christmas pop-up store. The Christmas elf will guess how happy you are and choose your present – so no resting Grinch face please.
The store offers shoppers the chance to be a secret Santa for a child and buy gifts ranging from a Christmas present, a hot meal or a safe place to sleep.
This can be bought by the shoppers or on behalf of someone else and features an artificial intelligence gift predicting machine.
The technology, called Christmas.Elf.ai, presents images of different gifts. The happiness of the viewer when responding to the images will influence which gift is recommended. So give it a try, really it would be rude-olf you not to.
“So, for instance, if seeing a child opening a present makes you smile the most, you will be recommended to buy a present for a child that would otherwise go without this Christmas,” says Action for Children.
“However, if your eyes light up at the sight of a delicious Christmas dinner, you may wish to buy a hot, nutritious meal for a child in need.”