Tuesday, October 20, 2009


First post for quite a while.

It’s not that there’s nothing in my mind worth rabbiting on about. At the moment, it’s more like the antidote to “Mastermind” – I’ve started but I haven’t finished anything for a few days. My computer is littered with bit of this and bits of something else. Things like the revival of the MP’s expenses issue and the way it’s always the little things in life which cause the real damage, or a piece on the two men, Ponting and Hurley, who photographed the Scott and Shackleton Antarctic expeditions so brilliantly ninety years ago, or a bit on Humphrey Lyttleton, jazz player, writer, and the best quiz show host EVER, or even one on the ramifications of the Report on the MG Rover "Phoenix Four" fiasco, or the rather sad story of Marcus Trescothick, and a couple more besides. They’re all there in embryonic form, some struggling for survival and some blossoming nicely.

But they’ve not been finished, so the blogger’s equivalent of the Deafening Silence has invaded the 42at60 pitch for a couple of weeks.

Explanations over, this post now goes from the sublime to the Gor Blimey.

I’m sitting down this morning with a cup of coffee and a biscuit, or more accurately two biscuits. Now one of my less impressive habits is that of dunking these things. My mother taught me that it’s not done in polite society, a bit like picking your nose and flicking the results at one's host or wearing brown shoes at a funeral. So, since I’m on my own, and, as far as I can see, nobody is staring through the window, I decide that these biscuits are definitely going to be eaten sinfully and impolitely - dunked in fact.

I can’t believe how sad I am writing about all this in so much detail but they are the excellent, slightly burnt, caramelly, crispy little ones you get in a decent restaurant, individually wrapped with your coffee - the biscuits the word "Moreish" was invented for. Although I am not a pig, I have been known to eat a complete packet at one sitting. Actually, I can remember starting out on the second one!

Now the skill (yes, it is a skill) in dunking biscuits is all in the timing. The depth of immersion is related in a complex, non linear fashion to the time it’s in the liquid. Also, the thinness of the biscuit, the temperature of the liquid, the relationship between the biscuit's volume and surface area (I'm sure Aspect Ratio and Sweepback Angles may play their part as well here) and, if I recall correctly from my youth, the Angle of the Dangle, all interact to mean that the time it must stay in the liquid is almost impossible to compute. I suspect, empirically I have to say, that there’s probably a Square/Cube Law in their somewhere if you could but do the maths properly. Probably a good subject for a PHD Dissertation at one of the UK’s many second class universities. At least the experiments would be enjoyable. Talk about generating a hunger for learning.

But this morning, the human mind swerves past all this maths, avoiding the complexities of the dynamics of cantilevered structures flexing at close to yield points, the divergent thermodynamic properties of randomly wet materials under severe loading and the aerodynamics of bluff, rough surfaced objects at low airspeeds and in turbulent airflow conditions – do I hear the need to consider the Reynolds Number of a moving Ginger Nut anywhere? - it really is not a simple thing, all this. We aficionados rely on a lifetime of hard earned biscuit dunking experiences to avoid needing to address and solve these awesome scientific issues.

Practice teaches us, to within about a second, just how long to leave it in the coffee, so the maximum amount of liquid has been absorbed, but leaving the biscuit at the very edge of its operating envelope, just capable of being transferred to one’s mouth without that sickening spludge of sodden carbohydrate falling on newly washed and ironed shirt. The more skilled of us can repeatedly pull this off, and we know the inner pleasure behind the slight supercilious sneer we give when some less experienced practitioner tries to copy, and falls at the first. Without polishing my halo here, if dunking biscuits was an Olympic sport, I’d be putting my application in to be the England team Manager.

Anyway, I’m just savouring my second (and last) biscuit, when I taste a really crunchy bit – somewhat like the currants you get in an (undunked) Garibaldi biscuit.

Except of course, as I realise almost instantaneously but just too late, that there are no currants in the caramel biscuits I’d been munching on. Signal from Brain to Mouth - stop chewing NOW and investigate. This is a "Code Red". A finger leads the investigation and soon provides the answer.

Half a fly.

Further investigation reveals that the matching half is nowhere to be found, leading to one distasteful (in both senses of the word) but inevitable conclusion. As an ex-scientist, I considered the alternatives and immediately rejected the idea that this particular fly had previously just been chopped neatly in two by person or persons unknown, followed by an immediate parabolic free-fall into my cup of coffee. The reason being that I was on my own, otherwise I wouldn’t have been dunking the biscuits in the first place, would I? It’s not polite, I've told you that already. Pay attention.

So, the irrefutable whereabouts of the rear end of this recently dismembered creature became, in an instant, quite clear to me. I certainly couldn't see it but I knew precisely where it was.

Yes, I know this isn’t polite either but, Uuurrrrgggghhhh!!!

I don’t know why (the maths – statistics and probability theory - is hugely against it), but I could not resist an involuntary swirl around in the coffee with my index finger to see if its nether regions were still swirling around in the brew. I even pondered whether the recently deceased fly had perhaps been a member of a suicide pact, which had, like lovers jumping off the Clifton Suspension Bridge holding hands, or legs, as they met a watery end, resulted in another fly ending its life at the same time in the same Espresso. But No. The phrase "We enter this world alone, and we leave it alone" applies to flies as well as humans.

Oh Dear, sorry about all this rambling, but al least it proves to the outside world, if nothing else, that I’m still around.

I don’t know if anyone has ever coined a saying – “There’s only one thing worse than finding a caterpillar in your salad, and that’s finding half a caterpillar.”

If they haven’t then, I claim authorship.

1 comment:

Whitenoise said...

Over here kids ask as a riddle "what's worse than finding a worm in your apple? Half a worm in half an apple."

As for dunking- Nature Valley Oats and Honey (or Almond) granola bars in milk. Dunk for too short a time and the bar remains hard and unpleasant to chew. Dunk for too long and the granola disintegrates into a pile of mush at the bottom of your glass. It's a skill.