The Holy Grail Of News Stories…


This might well be my favourite news story of all time, courtesy of the Islington Gazette.

The bomb squad were called and several buildings were evacuated last Thursday afternoon after water board workers discovered a hand grenade under a fire hydrant cover in London’s Finsbury.

After about an hour, the all-clear was given – when the highly trained experts realised that they were trying to defuse the Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch from the 1975 movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

More accurately, it was a replica of the prop Holy Hand Grenade which in the movie, you may remember, King Arthur (Graham Chapman) and his knights used to slay a killer bunny rabbit. (It was more vicious than it looked…)

The image on the right shows what the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch looks like. Once again, let me remind you, it took the bomb squad almost an hour to figure out it wasn’t a real hand grenade.

Now, I know that in the top 10 list of occupations in which you don’t want to take any chances, bomb disposal is right up there with sticking your head in a lion’s mouth or being a member of the crew on a Christian Bale movie. One wrong move and you will be done not only professionally, but existentially.

And, I suppose that it’s not entirely outwith the realms of possibility that a playful terrorist with a warped sense of humour might think it was a jolly wheeze to fashion a real explosive device  in the shape of the fictional Monty Python one – though to be truly whimsical, they would surely have left it in a cheese shop, not under a fire hydrant?

But still, even allowing for all that… an hour?

Alberto Romanelli, who owns The Windmill pub near the scene, said: “It was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen.”

I can’t say that I know Islington at all but I have no reason to doubt Alberto on that. However, if it is only one of the most ridiculous things he has ever seen, I would kind of like to know what the other ones are that it is competing with.

He added: “The bomb squad were here. They evacuated the pub while they were doing X-rays and stuff. It all lasted about 45 minutes before they decided it was nothing – which I thought was pretty obvious from the start.

“I lost a good hour’s worth of business.”

Yeah, well, losing an hour’s worth of takings is a bummer… but on the plus side, Alberto, you did keep all your limbs attached to your body. And just how much do you normally take in an hour on a Thursday afternoon, anyway..?

But possibly the best thing in this whole story is the obligatory quote from the police. In my day-job as a newspaper sub-editor, I know that however silly and light-hearted the story, you can always rely on the cops to give you an irony-free quote in that peculiar, giving-evidence-to-a-jury kind of a way that the police use to talk to everyone in an official capacity.

And, bless her, the spokeswoman in this case did us all proud, saying: “There was no danger to the public. The device is believed to be an object known as a Holy Hand Grenade.”

Neither Tim The Enchanter nor Brother Maynard, custodian of the Holy Hand Grenade, were available for comment yesterday.

Full Islington Gazette story here.

And here is what caused all the confusion:

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