Charles Nevin: Does yawning add to climate change?


Life, I find, despite all those who affect to stifle a yawn, continues to surprise.

To take one current and vivid example, I had absolutely no idea that any man over 50 was in the habit of wearing tight and brief underwear, let alone a Lord Justice of Appeal.

Now, though, I have been in receipt of communication (without, as far as I can see, an accompanying fee note) from another senior lawyer on the very same topic. "I am one who wears knickers as opposed to shorts," he writes. "It is revolting. One's fat stomach and other bits bulge round the edges. The alternative, though, is aching of the unmentionables."

Well, well. Can this, I wonder, be a condition transforming the figurative into the literal that affects only lawyers? Fascinating. Please let me know, briefly. And I have more, on yawning, as it happens. According to a survey, there are 379 million yawns in Britain a day; and the average Briton - always a challenging concept, in my view - will yawn 250,000 times in a lifetime.

Scientists will doubtless already be working on these findings: does this pressing need for extra oxygen mean we are all growing taller? I expect, too, that climate change will be in there somewhere.

But it cannot surely be ennui or accidie, not with such a Government as ours. And not while so much social change is going on. You will have seen, for example, that sales of clothes pegs at Asda are up by 1,200 per cent on last year.

Should you need a little stimulus, I would recommend trying to work out possible reasons for this dramatic increase. Again, it's said to be down to environmental awareness, but I feel there must be, on the Rizla model, something else going on. But what? A bad smell? Some sort of money laundering? A secret buy-up by tumble drier manufacturers? Commuting Lord Justices of Appeal taking absolutely no chances? Harassed female commuters preparing for direct identification?

I might point out, too, as I did last week in connection with the discovery of the remains of a parrot dinosaur in China, that you never know when something truly yawn-stifling is going to happen. Only a few days ago, for instance, an amorous couple near Ipswich were interrupted by the appearance of a large, North American rat snake, while Mr Bryan Harris of Mumbles found an iguana sitting on his hedge.

Not wishing to over-egg the excitement, I shall move swiftly past the imminent arrival here of caterpillars from Belgium that can cause anaphylactic shock in favour of reporting that the Methodist chapel in Polzeath has replaced its pulpit with a skate ramp.

Elsewhere, I have found some upcoming events that might titillate even the most jaded. Tomorrow is Sir Salman Rushdie's birthday; next week marks not only the 40th anniversary of Britain's first automatic cash dispenser (in Enfield); it is also National Poop Scoop Week. July, I notice, will host both the National Snail Racing and European Pipe Band championships. Smoking is going to get pretty exciting, too.

Internationally, you might care to join in the counting in Victoria as Mr Delrae Westgarth from Ballarat numbers the days until the end of October when his sheep, Lucky, will pass the present world record for the oldest sheep, standing at 21 years, five months and three days; 135, 134 ... And this just in: another rat snake, in Fareham.

Our future is safe in their hands

Excellent news for those who've been watching, wonderingly, Britain's Got Talent and the weekend's marriages while reflecting on the possibility of Tony Blair, President of Europe: our future is in safer hands than you might think. Asked which artistic figure inspired them the most, our maligned and fussed-over 18-25-year-olds placed Peter Kay, left, just behind Walt Disney and just ahead of Leonardo da Vinci. This strikes me as exactly the right response. Their choice conveys irony and a robust sense of humour that might just get them through the next 60 years. I imagine that they, too, are taking the lead in this petition appearing on the Downing Street website demanding another choice for prime minister, Jeremy Clarkson. Poop poop!

It's difficult to defend the US from the scorn that seems its present principal lot. In vain will you cite its sophistications as long as documents emerge such as the one from the Air Force proposing to spray opposing forces with a chemical that would turn them gay.

The idea was that this would make enemy soldiers more interested in one another than the enemy. Excellent. Presumably they would also wear brighter uniforms. Jay Leno says the second half of the plan was to turn Iraq into a musical.

Most laughable, sadly, is the ignorance. History heaves with redoubtable soldiers who loved soldiers. Alexander, Alcibiades, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Richard the Lionheart and Frederick the Great, say, more than stand comparison with any strictly hetero heroes.

War, though, is unrivalled at confounding assumptions. I knew, for example, that Hedy Lamarr invented the radio-controlled torpedo; I now read that the atomic bombs on the Enola Gay were held in place by clamps invented by Zeppo Marx. Funny or what?

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