Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

These tomatoes are safe to eat - no, really. Frozen cabbage leaves, on the other hand...
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The Independent Online

Ah, there you are. Welcome to the column that really goes for the wider context we in the media are so constantly implored to explore. And I should like to start by placing this particular Monday in its broader historical setting. To be frank, though, today seems to have been one of history's days off, with the exception of Queen Victoria's coronation, which, I suppose is a fairly significant exception, but still doesn't really compare with Saturday, which, in its time, had seen the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the birth of George Michael and, in 1977, Roy C Sullivan of Virginia being struck by lightning for the seventh time.

Ah, there you are. Welcome to the column that really goes for the wider context we in the media are so constantly implored to explore. And I should like to start by placing this particular Monday in its broader historical setting. To be frank, though, today seems to have been one of history's days off, with the exception of Queen Victoria's coronation, which, I suppose is a fairly significant exception, but still doesn't really compare with Saturday, which, in its time, had seen the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the birth of George Michael and, in 1977, Roy C Sullivan of Virginia being struck by lightning for the seventh time.

Tomorrow would have been equally good, being chosen both for the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914 and for proving that the tomato was non-poisonous (1820). All a bit of a shame, as the tomato trial was especially interesting, with some 2,000 people gathering in Salem, Massachusetts, to see if Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson would die after eating one (he didn't; in fact, he ate several pounds).

Just as well, too, as the consequences if he'd succumbed to a coincidental seizure of some sort don't bear thinking about, especially for Greek salad, which would be, without the tomato, let's face it, a bit sparse. And one of my favourite jokes would have been greeted with incomprehension instead of the usual uncontrollable guffaws: Why did the tomato blush? Because it saw the salad dressing.

Marvellous. I like to see the Colonel as a true descendant of Eve, a bold biter, although he might have had some special knowledge, as we'd been eating them over here for years, and they'd been pretty big in Mexico for the last 3,000. They're berries, you know, like bananas. And where would we be without the banana? Exactly. There would be no man walking along with a banana in his ear, and no second man asking him why he had a banana in his ear so that he could reply, "Sorry, I can¿t hear you, I've got a banana in my ear."

As it happens, "Yes, we have no bananas" is supposed to have been written by Trotsky's nephew, but we can't go into that now, as it's time to move on to China and the 600-year-old root of the flowery knotweed shaped like a teddy bear discovered last week near a temple in Xianju. Excellent, and good to see such an imaginative take-up of the trail pioneered for so many years by Esther Rantzen, although, as I recall, she stuck mostly to carrots and potatoes.

Elsewhere in international vegetables, The Korea Baseball Organisation has outlawed wearing frozen cabbage leaves inside caps to keep the head cool. No one would have known anything about it if Doosan Bears pitcher Park Myung-hwan's cap hadn't fallen off, but then, clearly, the KBA had to act. "What will we do if another team argues that because the cabbage leaf fell just as the pitcher was pitching, the batter got confused?" it asked. A good point, but I can't help thinking that frozen cabbage leaves, judiciously applied, would have saved a lot of trouble at the FA.

Biker recreation

Problems for a sporting organisation in Australia, too, where a bowling club in the Hunter Valley has been taken over by the Bandidos motorcycle group. Two of the Bandidos are now facing drugs charges after the club was searched. A pity, as this could be just the shot in the arm the game needs. Quite a challenge for the greenkeeper, too. But it does give me an excuse to remind you of the American Hell's Angel who sued his tatooist for leaving out the crucial first "a" in "Son of Satan".

Other sporting news: in Miyazaki, southern Japan, Kozo Haraguchi has broken the 100 metre world record for men aged 95 to 99, clocking 22.04 seconds. Sir Clive Woodward is reported to be investigating whether Haraguchi, 95, has an Irish grandmother.

A load of bull?

Cows. And to Kaliningrad now, where a bull followed a cow into a stationery shop and indulged in rampant FA-style behaviour. Good, but not quite as good as Lancaster, 2003, where a bull got into a china shop. No, it did, I promise you. But this stationery shop business makes me wonder if pen also has two meanings in Russian. There again, they might have been Jerseys.

Other species news: crocodiles have been sighted in Cyprus and a snapping turtle has bitten a 15-year-old boy on the penis in a lake in Bavaria. Locals have been avoiding the lake since the incident, says the report. Meanwhile, in Berlin, small groups of Germans have been seen slapping themselves on the forehead with their mouths wide open and practising different types of laughter, but that's because they're attending the world's first laughter school.

Fairly standard week in transport and traffic, apart from the car that flew off Highway 65 in Arkansas and landed on top of a Pine Bluff man asleep in his bed; and, a curious incident closer to home, where a car left in a car park in Henley was discovered the next day covered in chocolate cake. No, after you, Claude: crumbs.

Late breaking news: after further extensive research, I've just discovered that Colonel Johnson ate the tomatoes on 26 September, not 28 June. Sorry. As you were.

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