ON the face of it, the job of a supermarket picker sounds relatively straightforward. Zipping around the aisles gathering groceries which are loaded into a van to be dispatched to the customer.

But what happens if an item is not in stock? Well, that's when things can get downright bizarre. You are now entering the Twilight Zone: home delivery substitutions.

I've had some crackers in my time – not least when I ordered Christmas crackers and received Jacobs Cream Crackers – but even that pales in comparison to news of a woman who ordered a birthday cake candle for her daughter in the shape of a five.

Tesco, it transpires, was fresh out of fives, so instead sent a pair of twos and a one. Which is either completely bonkers or utterly genius depending on how you look at it.

Unfortunately, Sheree Scanlon from Coventry – the recipient of said candles – wasn't keen for a maths lesson atop her daughter's unicorn cake. She complained to the supermarket which has apologised and issued a refund. On the bright side, at least she didn't order four candles.

Spare a thought for the poor picker who, when faced with a request for a special candle (and evidently not wanting to spoil a child's birthday) came up with a creative solution on the spot. If that individual is not fast-tracked to senior management then Tesco are surely missing a trick.

It's a thankless task being wrangler of the home delivery substitution. Yet, arguably every bit as tough, is the job of delivery driver, a role where the uniform should come with a badge which reads: "Please don't shoot the messenger".

I've lost count of the times while unloading groceries, the driver has nervously cleared his or her throat and whimpered: "Erm, there's a couple of substitutions …". This is generally accompanied by the same haunted look you'd expect if they had also run over your dog in the driveway.

As well as the crackers/crackers scenario, I once received a courgette instead of a cucumber which was close but no cigar (although I admit it did cross my mind to use the courgette as a G&T garnish when my guests got a little more pie-eyed as the evening wore on).

I was less on board with the idea of Dairylea Triangles as a substitute for a chunk of Manchego, but I appreciated the gesture. Nonetheless, the Dairylea Triangles left again with the delivery driver.

A quick straw poll suggests that petits pois being replaced with Petits Filous is a fairly common switcheroo. Which makes you think these must be computer-generated suggestions at play, rather than a human being who reckons yoghurt is a perfectly acceptable alternative to peas.

My all-time favourite is an acquaintance who ordered a multipack of Hula Hoops and was sent a sparkly pink fitness hula hoop. Once she had stopped laughing, you better believe she kept it.

Who runs the world?

GUINNESS World Records has managed to pull itself back from the dark ages – or at least the era of bawdy Carry On films – after it did a U-turn and awarded a woman the title of fastest female marathon runner wearing a nurse's uniform.

Jessica Anderson, an NHS nurse who works at the acute admission unit of the Royal London, was previously told her finish time of 3h 8m 22s in the London Marathon last month would not count because she wore scrubs with trousers.

The rules stipulated that the criteria for a nurse's uniform "must include a blue or white dress, a white pinafore apron and a traditional white nurse's cap". And one presumes a race pacer impersonating the late Sid James running alongside making smutty comments?

After public outcry – which saw nurses sharing pictures of themselves in uniform with the hashtag #WhatNursesWear – Guinness World Records admitted its guidelines were "outdated, incorrect and reflected a stereotype we do not in any way wish to perpetuate."

It also said it would no longer accept fancy-dress outfits for the nurse's category and instead adopt guidelines "which reflect the clothes worn by nurses in the UK and around the world".

Not a moment too soon. My mother and father were both nurses and these archaic – never mind offensive – gender stereotypes have no place in the perceptions of this wonderful profession.

If there is a Guinness World Record for grovelling or the most excruciating public climbdown, then it should probably award that to itself.

Lost for words

YOU had to feel for Nicholas Witchell. The BBC's Royal Correspondent was discussing the royal baby on the News at Ten when his train of thought derailed live on air. Left stumbling over his words, the veteran reporter handed back to the studio.

Within seconds of the broadcast, there came a slew of gloating on social media from individuals who had clearly never had a bad day at the office. It must be marvellous to be so perfect, huh?

Witchell has since described the moment as "extremely embarrassing" and said he wanted "the ground to open and swallow me up". Fret not, Nicholas. We've all been there. Usually when I'm about halfway through writing this column each week.

Alcohol-free craic

DRUMROLL! This week's Emperor's New Clothes Award goes to [dramatic pause] … The Virgin Mary in Dublin which is laying claim to being Ireland's first permanent booze-free watering hole.

Do not adjust your reading glasses. The newly unveiled establishment operates pub hours and proffers a bar-style vibe, but only sells beer, wine and cocktails with zero per cent alcohol.

Tipples include a pint of "Chilled Raven", a wretched sounding cocktail of nitro coffee and non-alcoholic porter poured from a stout tap to mimic the texture and appearance of Guinness.

Owner Vaughan Yates says that early punters through the doors had a grand old time, so much so they were "tipsy on the atmosphere". Or maybe Vaughan, they smuggled in a hip flask of vodka and were passing it round in the loos?