Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

There can be no more tender memento of a lifetime's love than ... a pickled gherkin
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The Independent Online

Courage! Or, as the French have it, Courage! Today, as I warned you last week, has been deemed, after research, the most depressing of the year. But are we downhearted? Are we? Come on, you can do better than that! Are we downhearted?

That was terrific! I bet they heard that in Liechtenstein, where they're not gloomy today, either, as it's their 287th anniversary. Did you know that Liechtenstein is one of the only two landlocked countries in the world that are surrounded by landlocked countries? The other is Uzbekistan, which, I see, unlike Liechtenstein, has a navy, with boats patrolling the Amu Darya river. No, please, feel free to fling it in whenever conversation lulls.

But now we'd better get on with the columnar business, which, as you can see from looking up there, is an eclectic digest of some of the recent news you might have missed, starting with, if you'll pardon the pun (digest!), food.

And first, we go to Croatia, where Mrs Vera Dudas claims to have the oldest pickled cucumber in the world. It was pickled in 1930 by her mother-in-law to celebrate the birth of Mrs Dudas's late husband, Pavao. "Unfortunately, the cucumber has survived longer than Pavao," said Mrs Dudas. "I remember my entire married life when I look at that cucumber, it was with us everywhere we ever lived and through all our experiences - good and bad." That's some gherkin.

Actually, as it happens, gherkins have a remarkable property: if you connect electrodes to them, they glow. Which, permanently rigged up, on the sideboard, would be a fine way of commemorating Mr Dudas, I feel.

Yoghurt topless

Not such good news, however, from the United States, where there's a court action going on in Mineola in which the family of another deceased, Mr Jerry Colaitis, allege that he died after complications from neck surgery needed after he wrenched it dodging a prawn thrown at him by a chef in a Japanese restaurant. I haven't yet been able to establish if the chef shouted "duck", which might be significant, always depending, of course, on what Mr Colaitis had ordered.

More legal activity in Seoul, too, where a dairy company's conviction for the obscene use of yoghurt has just been upheld. The defence gave a stirring display, but the Supreme Court wouldn't swallow it. The yoghurt was squirted all over each other by three naked models; they obviously didn't encounter any difficulty getting their tops off, even though it's something I often struggle with, where yoghurt cartons are concerned.

Staying dairy, a milk truck has overturned in Winona, Minnesota, spilling about 1,000 gallons in the street. Eye-witnesses said everything was now all white. Interestingly enough, Minnesota is the home state of Alexander Anderson, inventor of puffed wheat. And, today, as it happens, by another remarkable coincidence, is also the 24th anniversary of the day Urbe Bianca, a Cuban cow, producing the world record of 241 pints. I agree that it would have been neater if a member of the renowned Liechtenstein herd held the record, but this would be highly unlikely, as it's not that long since Liechtenstein farmers were banned from feeding them hemp, which would produce, I imagine, fairly laid-back cows.

Sweet smell of ...

Elsewhere in agriculture, I have news which could have a profound effect on British rural life: a man in Iowa claims to be able to remove the smell from pig manure. Well. For years now, the smell of pig manure, allied to the comparative infrequency of coffee shops, has been the only thing keeping more people from the towns, especially the higher northern parts of London, coming to live in the country. Mr Loran Balvanz must be stopped, at least until Barbour have built up stocks.

What will also confuse incomers is this new trend for donkeys to watch sheep. Very big in the States, apparently, and on its way here. A useful alternative to dogs and llamas, says Mr Randy Gottfredson, sheep specialist. He advises using jennies rather than the more aggressive jacks, but warns that you should only use one as "two donkeys will stand together and 'chit-chat' instead of guarding the flock." Marvellous.

Holy smoke!

Next, Church News, and there's quite a few notices to get through this week. Bulgaria: Father Kiril Papudov has been arrested for selling cannabis joints to parishioners. Romania: Father Vasile Mihaila has been fined for playing poker in the pub. Norway: Rev Einer Gelius has been ordered not to judge Miss Universe. Galway: Father Maurice Dillane, a 73-year-old who plays off a six handicap, has resigned after fathering a child by his 31-year-old girlfriend. Tennessee: Rev James Rual Chalk, 100, has married for the third time, a few months after getting a speeding ticket. Now that's a collection.

Elsewhere in Minnesota, meanwhile, a witch has been fired from her job as a schoolbus driver. Ms Julie Carpenter is upset, but that's a big back story to overcome, isn't it? Her husband, by the way, is the chap we met last week who's running for governor on a vampire ticket, so there's a lot at stake.

Finally, some more encouragement for the New Year fitness campaign: Robert Cole, 36, has escaped from prison in Australia by squeezing through a narrow gap after losing more than three stone on a diet. See, you never know when it will come in handy. Till next week?