Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Idler,Wednesday, February 8, 2017

These astounding discoveries


On the road to Mandalay, where the flying-fishes play
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay …


FLYING fish. Quite astounding has been the discovery in recent days that flying fish inhabit our waters, whereas non-scientific dumbos such as myself always believed they inhabited only the tropical climes and Kipling's verse.


Reader Anne Bolton recently described to us how she encountered one in the shallows at Vetch's beach and got into conversation with him, persuading him to head for the open sea instead of beaching himself, which he then did - taking off like a rocket.


Now my old chum Chris Taylor, a fellow-member of the Natal Cricket Society, tells me he's also seen flying fish.


"Many years ago while at Sheffield Beach I was standing on the rocks when a shoal of flying fish surfaced a number of times in front of me. Very beautiful they were."


Chris doesn't mention whether he conversed with these flying fish. I suppose their sudden rising out of the sea like that takes one by surprise.


Come you back to Mandalay, where the old Flotilla lay
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay …


Yes, you could even sing them some appropriate Kipling but by the time you've gathered your thoughts they've disappeared under the sea again.


But the other fascinating thing about all this is that it seems people can converse with fish. Anne Bolton says she did it with her flying fish. And another Anne – this one Anne Kunz from the Oceanographic Research Institute, who confirmed for us that there are several species of flying fish in our waters – says Anne Bolton must not worry herself about talking to fish. She herself does it all the time.


I suppose if you work at ORI you do get the opportunity to get into conversation with a musselcracker or a manta ray. But not too many of us get that opportunity.


I used to have endless conversations with my Irish terrier. He especially loved limericks about fat ladies. I've tried talking to cats but they just turn their head away like girls who aren't interested. But fish? Wow!


Best to brush up on the Kipling in case the flying fish put in another appearance down at Vetch's.


There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks of me
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say
'Come you back, you British Soldier, come you back to Mandalay.'




THIS intriguing discovery that people can talk to fish perhaps dates to the time of British entertainer Spike Milligan, who often put on a show in Durban.


My old pal Rudy van der Elst, who was a senior scientist at ORI – I think he's down at Stellenbosch now - would read in the papers that Milligan was in town, and would brace himself for the visit.


Sure enough, Milligan would come storming in.


"You're still ill-treating that octopus! He's still squashed into a tiny crevice in the rocks!"


"But Spike, that's how an octopus likes to live, squashed into a crevice in the rocks."


"Nonsense! He likes to float free in the ocean!"


"Spike, if he floats free in the ocean he gets chowed by something double-quick."


"Nonsense! And you've been ill-treating that octopus for years now."


"Spike, it's not the same octopus. They live for only six months."


"Nonsense! He recognised me. He winked at me …"


And so it would go on. Yes, I'm sure Milligan pioneered piscatorial communication.


Rugger bugger


SOME readers might remember the delightful Cilla Duff (now in Canada) who used to write a very entertaining column in the Sunday Tribune. She once interviewed Spike Milligan over dinner. He talked about nothing but rugby.


Cilla: "Aren't you interested in anything but rugby?"


Spike: "My dear, there's nothing in the world more important than rugby."


Yes, that Spike Milligan had his head screwed on properly.


New team


PHOTOGRAPHER Roy Reed notes that America's new vice-president is a man named Mickey Pence.


"Even Walt Disney couldn't have imagined America being run by Mickey and Donald."




BOXING is a lot like ballet. Except, of course, that there's no music, no choreography and the dancers punch each other.


All-in wrestling, however, is exactly like ballet.


Last word


I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury – Groucho Marx




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