Local journalism – the weird and wacky stories that, unbelievably, make the cut

From swimming guinea pigs to custard shortages, Britain’s newspapers have everything covered.

After spotting the excellently titled “Whitstable Mum In Custard Shortage: …And Other World Exclusives From Britain’s Finest Local Newspapers” in Sainsbury’s – I had a thumb through it.

It’s a collection of absurd stories from around Britain and it’s very funny and very familiar, if you’re interested in local journalism. (The story that the title is derived from is a good read, especially the comments section).

Now, I have a soft spot for Aberystwyth, having done an exchange year at the university there.

Not only does the book contain Aberystwyth’s Cambrian News headline “I didn’t know guinea pigs could swim!” but it also contains a story from the newspaper I used to work for, the Surrey Advertiser. I don’t have a copy of the story, but it ran under the headline “Mystery after hanging basket stolen – then returned”.

Researching the book online led me to another brilliant discovery.

I was trying to find out a bit more about the other stories in the book and clicked on a blog post entitled “my favourite letter ever written to a local newspaper” only to find that the author referenced another wonderful Cambrian News gem.

Anders Hanson writes: “Top billing on this site is the now infamous “I didn’t know guinea pigs could swim” headline, and I see that this week has also generated the excellent “Help… Dog urine is seeping into my flat”. So after that extensive build-up, my favourite letter ever comes from the 11th October 2007 edition and I still cannot decide if it is a deliberate piss-take, (if you’ll excuse the pun), or a serious complaint:

Urinals too high off ground in new harbour toilet block


On a recent visit to Aberystwyth, I went to the newly-designed toilet at the harbour.

The urinals were very high. Another visitor who was five feet two inches tall had to go into the cubicle because of this. Incidentally, there are no boys’ urinals there.

Thinking more deeply about the height of urinals following this visit, I would also like to point out that Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons in our area have urinals set 12 to 14 inches off the ground, much lower than in Aberystwyth.”

Your etc,

Roger Pye, Kinerton, Herefordshire


1 thought on “Local journalism – the weird and wacky stories that, unbelievably, make the cut”

  1. I cannot but help agree with you my letter to Cambrian News, however, I must admit that what I actually sent was a poem regarding the loos. My fax was playing up, so only the second page went through to the editor, with the result that it was printed!! Incidentally, the address was actually KIngton. The poem of no literary merit was:-I went to Aberystwyth, I went to see the sea, and after a packed lunch, I went to have a pee./ I visited the harbour loo,- the new one, not the old which used to have hot water, – or so I have been told/ Myself I am quite tall, my legs are 33, and only just could I have a comfortable pee./ So if you are a Cymro, and note a sailing Sais, and your legs are under 28, Then it isn’t very nice!/ So take a penny with you, When you visit the harbour loo./ In addition to the No. One, you can have a No. Two! / So a message to the Council of Aberystwyth Town, Go visit then the Harbour loo, And lower the plumbing down!!/ Amen.

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