STRANGE times ... the world's first robot hotel has laid-off half its staff.

That means 50 per cent of its 240 weird and wired employees are now on the metaphorical scrap heap and have been sent back to the drawing board. A case of Fault-y Towers – Eastern style.

It seems they were simply not as good as the humans.

A team of seven were there just in case of emergency.

That's a comforting thought with all the scary predictions that many jobs in the future will be done by the AIOs – armies of artificial intelligence officers.

Apparently the egg-shaped table top concierges in each room annoyed guests with early morning errors such as waking guests up by mistaking snores for commands.

The aptly-named "Strange Hotel" saw robots breaking down - throwing a technical "sicky" of sorts.

In fact, humans lapped it up getting plenty of overtime to repair them.

The reception robot fared no better, dishing out misinformation about flight departures.

The owner Hideo Sawada is re-booting his revolutionary robot regime.

Meanwhile automatons are having more success advancing the care for the elderly in America.

Researchers at Washington University's Centre for advanced studies use robots in various shapes and forms helping dementia sufferers live independently.

Robots fitted with sensors can help lead them to their medication and food at home instead of sending people to a care institution. I am filled with optimism.

Back home, it is clear robots could never replace our politicians.

Town halls across the country can rest easy ... for now.


WHAT are you doing next Billy?

Go on, give us a clue.

It's 40 years since that great Saturday morning TV series The Mersey Pirate aired from the Liverpool waterfront with Cap'n Billy at the helm.

It would be great to see that sail back.

Now that Billy no longer has a show on BBC Radio Merseyside, it seems there could however be a new role beckoning for the broadcaster and TV presenter, who is 77 tomorrow.

Mrs Butler's Eldest, as he is affectionately known, has a reputation for thinking on his feet – 47 years on air speaks for itself.

Last week he was interviewed live on stage by quick-witted improvisational comedian Tony Slattery.

Billy was big hit and gave as good as he got from unpredictable Tony.

I think this would be an inspired pairing for a series on the Dave comedy channel. Slattery gets you everywhere.

Hold your Plums meets Whose Line is it Anyway?

A mind-boggling prospect, indeed.


BRIGHT as a button ... that is Merseyside legend Norah Button.

Norah and the Liverpool Theatre School are both 80 years old. A dancer since the age of three, she went on to teach thousands across Merseyside including many in Wirral.

Spirited Norah, a JMU honorary fellow, recalled one of her earliest memories of a bomb exploding outside her home in Liverpool 8 shaking the buildings and shattering the windows.

She recalled her gran Anastasia Morrisey running out into the street threatening Hitler with "all the leprechauns of Ireland."

This Sunday afternoon at the M&S Auditorium she will present an 80th anniversary animal charity celebration, Magic of the Musicals.

And, I can reveal, Ken Dodd's Diddymen will be there.

Norah and Doddy collaborated on the famous characters.

Norah has so many memories and remembers one not very well-off pupil who religiously chained his bicycle outside the theatre school premises to avoid it being stolen on his road to a showbiz career.

It was Les Dennis.

Take a bow Norah – always on the button.


TALKING of legends, the Inferno salutes actor Windsor Davies, who has sadly passed away at 88.

He was so different from the blustering Sgt Major Williams he made famous in It Ain't Half Hot Mum.

I interviewed the former miner and teacher when he was in panto.

He suggested our allotted 15-minute chat should take place in the pub next door to the Empire. It lasted nearly three hours.

People came up to him asking him to recite his catchphrases: "Shut up!" and "Oh dear, how sad, never mind."

In the days before selfies, he signed beer mats and even waited for people to come back with cameras.

He then duly pulled faces and twisted his moustache.

Like the late June Whitfield, he was also a Carry On film star who did not have a trace of ego.

A rare quality in these celebrity-soaked times.


I AWOKE with a Brexit induced headache to hear the chilling statement that when "China sneezes the world catches a cold."

Such worrying Chinese economic news was, however, quickly followed by the revelation that the UK has a new ambassador in Beijing a – a pink, oinking cartoon cult called Peppa.

Nice timing for the forthcoming Chinese Year of the Pig.


And finally ...

I thought April 1 had come early when I read in the Globe that KFC has created a gravy- scented candle.

How fowl ... I thought, but, no, it's something to wax lyrical about.

Now if some baker comes up with a freshly- baked bread candle aroma I’ll be first in the queue.

Peter Grant