THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU DIDN’T KNOW: III
8% of British people have tried DIY tooth extraction...British cauliflower production has fallen by 30% in 10 years...nothing manmade can be seen from space (not even the Great Wall of China)...
Those who know the waywardness of my thought processes will already know that I’m a big fan of trivia and lists - especially if the list in question is a list of trivia like the one above. Naturally, I’ve often found myself wondering why this might be so. To try and find an answer, I decided to take the three facts above - about teeth, cauliflowers and space - and examine them a little more deeply; to look at them from a different angle to try and determine what it is about such things that I find so fascinating.
The statistic about DIY dentistry is - as well as being faintly ridiculous - surely rather worrying. Has the cost of going to see a dentist risen so much that a substantial minority of us are prepared to attach one end of a length of cotton thread to our aching tooth and the other to the handle of an open door and then slam the door? Or is such rudimentary treatment seen as preferable to the sheer pain and discomfort of a dental visit? Either way, the statistic isn’t as trivial as it at first appears.
The same could be said about the decline of the cauliflower. I suppose the rise of the aubergine, the courgette and broccoli - amongst many other vegetable exotica - is at least partly to blame for the apparent demise of the humble (and very nutritious) cauliflower, as well as of the wonderful white cabbage and the juicy, crunchy Brussels sprout of old. In fact, we in our household were so incensed by this particular item of truckshunting trivia that we devoted our main Sunday meal to enjoyment of these old-fashioned but now threatened staples of the British dining table.
It’s ages since I ate some boiled cabbage; it was lovely.
As for the myth that the Great Wall of China is the only earthly manmade object that can be seen from space - well...you only have to think about it to realise what a load of dingo’s kidneys that is. Yet many millions of people believe it. In the same way, I’m absolutely certain that I myself believe quite a few things that have no basis in fact...
See? A second look at our list above proves that nothing is really trivial. Every smidgin of information really does have its uses; triviality is in the eye of the beholder. This was brought home to me in a big way the other day when I was idly passing the time of day with a neighbour. We were talking about some of the natural world’s most amazing phenomena - tidal waves, avalanches, typhoons - when she mentioned that one of the most amazing of all takes place right here at home. Or at least, here is where it starts...
As everyone knows, cuckoos arrive on our island in mid-Spring and proceed to lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Having done this, they leave their eggs to their fate; adult cuckoos take no further interest in the care, feeding and development of their offspring.
And yet...and yet...the fledgling cuckoo will leave its ‘adopted’ home nest and fly south a few months later. It will make its way to Africa with absolutely no help or guidance at all from any other creature. Many first-timers actually make their way - completely on their own - to the same feeding grounds as their parents.
No-one knows how they manage to do this. Amazing or what.
THE NEXT COUNCIL MEETING
For Heaven's sake don't forget that I'll be in the Coffee Lounge of the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle from 1800 until at least 2000 on Thursday 26 February. If you can make it, I'd be happy to see you!!!
THE TANFIELD RAILWAY
As planned, I met up with my old friend Neville Whaler over at the Tanfield Railway earlier today. (For those unfortunate enough not to know, Neville was almost solely responsible for the funniest - and most disgusting - of the double-entendres uttered by ‘the Tipsy Duchess’ on Paul’s Saturday show many years ago.) As well as being a working railwayman - closer to shunting trucks than most other truckshunters! - he is also a keen enthusiast of preserved ‘heritage’ railways, specially the Tanfield Railway.
I had a great time. It’s a very evocative site and a very evocative sight, too. The lines, the signal box, the sheds, the station, the tea bar, the rolling stock and locomotives, the journey...lovely.
All I can say is...if you haven’t been - GO. For details of timetables, fares and opening times, take a look at their website: www.tanfield-railway.co.uk.
And a big thankyou to all the lads and lasses whose voluntary work keeps the Tanfield Railway open and who gave me such a nice day today!
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Have you ever seen them? If so...
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