The Loop: Awkward sneezing

A woman sneezing

Welcome to The Loop, the Magazine's weekly letters column, including the best of your thoughts from Twitter and Facebook.

The week began with a squawk. Tom Heyden told the story of the unlucky trombonist who sneezed while playing his instrument during a performance. But it was more tut tut than toot toot, with many people pointing out a case of musical illiteracy on our behalf. Lewis Hindley, in Wales, is particularly brassed off: "This is plainly a brass band, not an orchestra. It's ignorance like this that is assisting the demise of more than 150 years of Britain's musical heritage. It's not all cloth caps, pits and whippets."

"Orchestra?!?!? It's a brass band!!!" writes an exasperated Zoe Rodgers in Wincanton. And with the Magazine's exclamation mark barometer in overdrive, it's clear we made a significant error. Fair enough, we hold up our hands. So please consider our mea culpa to apply not only to you readers but also to centuries of British musical heritage.

But others who overlooked our mistake offered their own examples of awkward sneezing episodes.

"I once felt the intense need to sneeze during one of my violin performances," writes Candace Padmore in Aldershot. "The moment was exacerbated by the fact that I was the soloist at somebody's wedding. I tried to sniff my sneeze away but my efforts were in vain. A sneeze erupted from my mouth and nose and caused my bow to careen all over the strings of my violin. I was able to complete my performance but I was mildly perturbed that such a moment of serenity should have been punctuated by such a horrid and annoying sound."

It seems there's too much pollen in the wedding flowers because Jim in Oxford explains: "At my wedding back in 1980, when asked to repeat my name for the vows, I accidentally sneezed over my now ex-wife." Presumably the sneezing is unrelated to the ex part, but it's not the best start.

But if one poorly timed sneeze is bad enough, spare a thought for those who have endured the rapid fire version. "Whilst serving in the RAF, I was on an escape and evasion exercise. I had a sneezing fit, epic fail, I never escaped," recalls Allen Syms in Swindon.

Fortunately for Syms it was only a simulated war experience. But explosive sneezes do occasionally cause unfortunate collateral damage, as Mark Speers in London explains: "I have always had a very very loud sneeze and it startles everyone around, especially in the office. I once sneezed so loud in the street that a cyclist was [so] startled he fell off his bike."

Roderick Hunt in Exeter went one further: "A few colleagues and I were drinking coffee and reading newspapers in the peace of the senior common room at my former university (I know, but someone has to do it). I had just sipped the last of my cup when I felt a sneeze coming on. I thought to myself, 'This is good coffee, I'll get the sneeze out of the way so that I can enjoy my last mouthful a little longer'. Big mistake. The coffee was nebulised right across the SCR, dripping down my astonished colleagues' faces and ruining their newspapers. Sometimes an apology doesn't seem enough."

But while Hunt admits it was his mistake, there's not much that Mark Harmer from Cheltenham could have done: "I once sneezed while giving an organ recital at Southampton University. Unfortunately at that point I had both hands (and both feet) occupied. Not noisy... but... ewww." Although we'd like to know how he would have used his feet had they been free.

The old pound coin and the new 12-sided one

Ouch's Damon Rose welcomed the new pound coin, explaining that as a blind person it will be easier to identify.

But three years away from its introduction the haters are already emerging. Although to call Newcastle's Joe Casey a hater is too harsh, as his angst clearly comes more from a position of love for the current coin: "I hate the new pound coin, it's clunky, ugly and impractical. The current pound coin is elegant, voluptuous and unmistakable. Also, why do we still have 1ps and 2ps when they are utterly useless and time consuming? The Royal Mint is Royally wasting taxpayers' money!"

And anybody who has coined (yes, couldn't resist, let's move on) the best ever adjective for a coin in the illustrious history of coin-describing - "voluptuous" - probably deserves some sort of knighthood. Now that wouldn't be a royal waste of taxpayers' money.

But Casey is not alone in his contempt for the penny coins. "Wouldn't it be a good opportunity to get rid of those annoying and irritating penny and 2p coins at the same time?" asks David L Reynolds in Bristol. "The 2p coin now has less value than the half new penny coin that older readers may remember from 1971. The press christened that one 'the tiddler' and it was soon withdrawn."

Elsewhere, Stephen Smith tried on a codpiece and revealed it was not just a way of showing off to the lads but also a practical place to keep your keys.

It proved to be a revelation for Mike Yeaman: "I'm always losing my keys. This clearly is the answer." And there appears to be scope for the codpiece's reintroduction on purely fashion taste considerations, according Jennifer Sanchez: "The codpiece leaves less to the imagination than some skinny jeans I've witnessed. Funny read!"

And finally Dean Marquis outdoes the story on using a plastic bag to cross a river, alerting us to the fact that apparently the "Ancient Spanish used to cross rivers by inflating goats' stomachs." We might need some gonzo-style confirmation of this possibility. Any takers? (On second thoughts, perhaps better for our liability if we leave that to the... hmm, professional goat stomach river crossers?)

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