IN CASE you missed it, yesterday was World Octopus Day, celebrated by marine scientists everywhere. They find the octopus a fascinating creature, predating the dinosaurs. Octopus fossils dating back 300 million years have been found.
Octopuses are also intelligent, the scientists insist, having 500 million neurons located in their brain and in their eight arms. This allows them to bypass their instincts, learn lessons and solve problems.
This is fascinating and it bears out some inside information I have that the folk at uShaka Marine World have a secret project. They're training an octopus to simultaneously play the piano, the bagpipes , the drums, the accoustic guitar and the triangle, which leaves one arm free to wave at the crowd. It's expected to be a huge hit with tourists.
All of which recalls the long-running battle over an octopus between British comedian Spike Milligan and Durban's marine scientists.
My old chum and marine science honcho Rudi van der Elst always knew, when he read in the paper that Spike Milligan's show had hit town again, that he was about to get a visit. Sure enough, Milligan would come storming into the aquarium, in those days located at the bottom end of West Street.
"You're still ill-treating that octopus!"
"Ill-treating him, Spike?"
"Yes. You've still got him cooped up in a little crevice."
"That's the way an octopus likes to live, Spike. Cooped up in a crevice. He couldn't be happier."
"Nonsense! An octopus likes to float free in the ocean."
"If an octopus floats free in the ocean, Spike, he pretty soon gets chowed by a barracuda or something."
"Nonsense! And you've been mistreating him for years now. Disgraceful!"
"It's not the same octopus."
"What do you mean, not the same octopus?"
"They live only about six months. It's not the same one you saw before.
"What nonsense! He recognised me. He winked at me …"
You couldn't win against Milligan. The Sunday Tribune once had a brilliant (and very glam) columnist named Cilla Duff (now in Canada). She described having dinner with Milligan.
He was at his hilariously verbose best, she said, but he wouldn't talk about anything but rugby.
"Don't you have any interests besides rugby?"
"My dear, there's nothing in the world more important than rugby."
Cilla should have mentioned that octopus in the aquarium. That would have set him off on another path.
SPIKE Milligan's hilarious book, Puckoon, described the partitioning of Ireland and should be required reading for Theresa May and the Brexiteers as they wrestle with the unsolvable problem of the Northern Ireland border.
His other books, Hitler: My Part In His Downfall and Rommel? Gunner Who? are required reading on World War II. Milligan created and played in the hilariously wacky Goon Show, that was on radio for years and had an audience world-wide.
Milligan always got the last laugh. The epitaph on his tombstone: "I told you I was ill". (He died aged 84).
SHE tells the doctor her hubby is losing interest in hanky-panky. He gives her a pill.
"Slip it into his mashed potato. It's something new. Please report back to me."
She reports back. "I slipped it into his mashed potato, as you said. Next thing he swept all the dishes away and ravished me right there on the table."
"Wow! Any side effects?"
"Well, we can't go into that restaurant any more,"
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.