Since the world is quite clearly going to hell in a handcart, I decided to produce some whimsy, a bit of light refreshment. It is time to talk about lampreys. I feel the lamprey needs to be celebrated. I didn’t know a lot about lampreys, although what I did know stems from one of the most reliable historical works, “1066 And All That” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1066_and_All_That – required reading for any asylum-seeker keen to imbue the culture of his host nature (not many sales there then, sadly). Anyway, all I did know from that publication was that almost every historical figure of the Middle Ages died of eating a surfeit of lampreys. Apparently this tradition originated with Henry I, the youngest son of William the Conqueror. http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/a-surfeit-of-lampreys-and-other.html
Sadly for the contestants on ‘Masterchef’, the humble lamprey has been absent from British rivers for some time no doubt because of over fishing and pollution, but they are making a comeback. Lampreys have a good CV. They have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and are the oldest vertebrates alive. They predate the dinosaurs, it seems. They look a bit like an eel, but they seem much more interesting than their slimy competitors. I was much intrigued to learn that they do not have jaws but rather a large sucking disk lined with teeth which they use to latch onto a host and thence suck the blood – putting me in mind of one of my ex’s as it happened. They have seven gills on each side, not one like a boring old fish. They are cousins of hag fish (I am thinking ex again). They only have one nostril, which begs the question: how do they smell? And guess the ansewer….
I learned all this from very enthusiastic boffin from Bournemouth University whom I heard on the radio. It seems they are becoming abundant in his local river so one day in mating season he popped down with a “Go Pro” (it’s a video camera, it turns out, and is assume he had a waterproof case) and stuck it in the river to see what was going on. Quite a lot, it seems. The male turns up at a nest site over clean gravel. The male then attracts a female by emitting the lamprey equivalent of my Lynx body spray. Once they have been introduced and signed the necessary pre-nup, the process is greatly more romantic and tasteful than the average celeb wedding. First they work together to tidy up the nest sight, picking up stones with the sucker disk and placing them around a perimeter creating a big crater about a meter wide, but they leave one big stone in the middle. Then they vibrate to disperse silt. When they are happy the nest is all clean and tidy, the female hangs on to the anchor stone in the middle of the nest to make sure they don’t get washed away. The male then wraps himself around the female and they “Get it On” to paraphrase a popular song title https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igNVdlXhKcI Then the eggs are buried with a bit more wiggling. Job done! It just seemed such a sweet and cooperative process, it made me smile.
Meanwhile, I have been mooching about in Manchester this week on Secret Business involving possible mating too, but I haven’t been moving stones or vibrating. At least not yet. Anyway, I have becomes far too familiar with young men with a particular dress code. They appear to have rather tight trousers and polished brogues, and that slightly retro Regency look which seemed to be popular back in the ‘60’s. The most common feature however is radically styled and groomed hair and beards. These are “hipsters”, I believe – a sort of radical chic fashion movement for men. And the hipsters will have been having a whale of a time of it this weekend, because yesterday was World Beard Day. http://worldbeardday.com/
I heard another expert being interviewed about it. He was writing a thesis on the social significance of the beard, I have noticed that there is a modern trend, often amongst sportsmen, for big and bushy beards. Who knows what this signifies? I myself have never flirted with the beard. It may perhaps be that I probably have a low level of testosterone and always struggled even to get a fuzz when I was young, or perhaps I have never felt the look would suit me, but I am thinking of changing. The reason is not fashion. It’s the ever more complicated and costly process of shaving. I am sure I just used to have an old Gillette Mach-something with the then innovative two blades, and it did a perfectly effective job. But thanks to a bit of confusion when shopping and a few birthday and Christmas presents I have now accumulated an array of shaving irons.
Anyway, I am now completely confused about what blades go on which, and I find myself completely baffled about what to buy. But then again – have you seen the bloody cost of razor blades these days! It’s getting crazy! Do we need all these “shaving systems” and hyper moisturising polymers or whatever we are being flogged. I keep getting some traffic on “social media” saying the whole thing is a scam, and flagging up the virtues of an old-fashioned cut throat razor. It certainly feels that way. There’s a good scene in ‘Skyfall’ when Daniel Craig’s Bond is given an old-fashioned shave (no innuendo intended) with a cut throat by the Naomie Harris’s Eve. It has some erotic edginess to it, but it has made me think I should invest in one, but I hear mixed reports, and I am so cack-handed I would worry about ending up in A&E. In the end today I settled for some disposal Gillette Mach 3’s. Still bloody £7 though.
Meanwhile this week – Stephen Gough, aka the naked rambler…
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Gough He has been released this week after serving yet another prison sentence for rambling about naked. All in all he has spent the best part 10 years in prison for his naked walking, largely because he is deemed to be in breach of the ubiquitous ASBO. And for much of that he is in “solitary” because he refuses to wear prison clothes. www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk- Gough’s issue, as I understand it, is something to do with personal freedom, not nudity per se. He is not attempting to make a sexual statement, or seek out and molest anyone. He is just bonkers. Former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald has called to an end to prison sentences for Mr. Gough, who may be a nuisance but has now spent more time behind bars than many a rapist or murderer. It’s hard to disagree. Perhaps he does offend some people, but there are many more offensive individuals who occupy high public office in the country, or bleat on with their messages of hate whilst typically feeding voraciously off the benefits provided by the State they would like to overthrow, but not a lot is done about them. What a waste of public money and court and prison resources.
Finally, whilst we are on the subject of walking, I am feeling rather virtuous because I am now a qualified Nordic Walker. This does not mean that I have passed a test so I can walk on Scandinavia, although I can do that if I like. It is a form of walking with special poles which are angled to produce an effect not too dissimilar to skiing, but without the sliding bits. Basically, the science is that you engage whole of the body’s core and upper body so that the energy used is greater than normal walking and you go much faster if you want, but the load is spread so it’s actually much better for posture, easier on the joints and much better for going up and down hills. I have got a Certificate, and everything. I did it to have something which added to just going to the gym, and I didn’t want to just run – I carry a few joint injuries.
I went on my first organised trek this morning – an hour-and-a half of hills and farm tracks, on a beautiful late summer day. In fact we haven’t had much of said summer, but September seems to keep coming good with its slightly red-gold sunshine, less bright than July, still warm but the faintest, bitter-sweet tinge of autumn. A quiet and peaceful activity in a gentle and peaceful landscape. I am afraid I am not sure how much longer things will stay that way. I am going to make the most of it, while it lasts. Have a good Sunday.
Gildas The Monk