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Of Gold and luck and loos

AL Gilkes

Of Gold and luck and loos

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With all the excitement of the Christmas season and the switch from the old year to the new one over, I am back to regular habits, one of which is searching for strange but true news from around the world.
One of the first such items to attract my attention last week came from India and it was about a “chit fund” businessman named Datta Phuge from a place called Pimpri, known as “The Gold Man of Pimpri”. To live up to this image, he recently commissioned a 22-karat gold shirt weighing 3.2 kilogrammes.
According to India Today newspaper, gold-obsessed businessmen and politicians are nothing new in India and not long ago, one Ramesh Wanjale was spotted wearing two kilos of gold, while politician Samrat Moze wore 8.5 kilos in the form of jewellery and ornaments. However, Phuge found a way to one-up them both by getting 15 goldsmiths to work 18 hours a day for over 15 days in order to finish his 3.5 kilogramme gold shirt which consists of 14 000 gold flowerings, interwoven with one lakh spangles. It was assembled on a fabric base of imported white velvet, and comes with six Swarovski crystal buttons and an intricate belt, also made of gold.
Next I discovered a man who, after cheating death seven times, won a £600 000 lottery. This ‘world’s luckiest man’ is Frano Selak, an 81-year-old music teacher from Croatia, who survived one plane crash, several train and car wrecks and other disasters such as falling out of a plane through a door that was blown open, only to land on a haystack.
Then, in a true change of fortune, lady luck smiled on him seven years ago and put some icing on his record of misfortunes with the lottery win just as he was about to enter into his fifth marriage. Until recently, he owned a luxury home on a private island. But Selak said he came to realise that “money cannot buy happiness”, sold his home, gave away his fortune to family and friends and moved back to his old home – a modest dwelling in Petrinja, in the middle of Croatia. The only bit of winnings he kept for himself was to pay for a hip replacement operation.
At the true bottom of the odd news I found a story about this extremely strange theme park in South Korea. Named the Restroom Cultural Park, it’s a massive complex dedicated to the toilet. The main exhibition hall itself is shaped like a large toilet bowl and the pathway leading up to it is adorned with bronze figures of humans in mid-squat.
The facility is the only one of its kind in the world and includes WC signs from around the world and toilet-themed art. What’s even more interesting is that the place was initially home to the former mayor of Suwon who died in 2009 and regarded as their very own ‘Mr Toilet’, partly due to the fact that he ran a successful campaign in the 1980s to dramatically improve South Korea’s old toilet system and because he was born in his grandmother’s loo. So inspired was he by his place of birth that he built his own house in the shape of a toilet.
• Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm. Email [email protected]