Charles Nevin: Snakes alive! You can't even race down the autobahn without meeting a boa constrictor

Click to follow

Yes, what I'm trying to achieve is a connection between fun and Monday so strong that just the thought of it will prompt an involuntary smile. And, funnily enough, as it happens, if he'd lived, Ivan Pavlov would have been 162 today. Pavlov, come on, he rings a bell.

Try, too, this trio of top today anniversaries: 1876: first Belgian parachute jump; 1953: sugar rationing ended in Britain; 1984: Bobby Ewing re-appears in his wife's shower in Dallas after a trip to Atlantis. Actually, that might be slightly wrong, but I know he had webbed feet. (Younger readers: you may prefer to ponder on the first French parachute jump taking place in 1797.)

Anyway, quickly on to the other prime columnar function, my demi-exclusive digest of some of the rest of what's been happening at home and abroad. German traffic news first. Autobahns: more than 200 cars got stuck in the A20 when rain turned freshly laid tarmac into sludge, the A45 came to a standstill when a large number of exotic reptiles, including vipers, boa constrictors and iguanas escaped from an overturned van, and over 100 British motorists were stopped for racing their sports cars, but, sadly, the police didn't ask any of them to help with the boa constrictors.

Toot! toot!

Elsewhere, transport-wise, police in New Delhi have discovered that motor-rickshaw drivers have re-wired their meters so that they tick over more quickly when the horn is sounded; two men who stole a car from a petrol station in Florida have been arrested after returning an hour later to fill it up; pilots in Peru have faked an emergency so that their plane could get down in time for a soccer match; and holidaymakers in Queensland are being given the chance to walk on the wing of a jumbo. No, it doesn't say where, exactly, the jumbo will be at the time; but I can tell you that the plane in Peru was operated by Air Rum.

Staying in India, a parrot which for many years has chanted, "Long live Laloo," in support of Mr Laloo Yadav of the National People's Party now chants, " Long live Nitish" in support of his rival, Mr Nitish Kumar. The parrot's trainer, who, coincidentally, has just switched his support from Mr Yadav to Mr Kumar, claims to be as surprised as anyone by these spontaneous outbursts. Observers here say something very similar will be going on at the Labour Party conference.

Better up...

Records: Paul Hunn, of London, world's loudest burp (118.1 decibels, equivalent to a jumbo jet taking off 100 yards away, without holidaymakers clinging on, I imagine). Ashrita Furman, of New York, pushing an orange one mile with his nose in 24 minutes, 36 seconds, to accompany his other records, including climbing Mount Fuji on a pogo stick and walking 80.95 miles with a milk bottle on his head. But I'm not quite so impressed by the 4,518 lbs of chips consumed by 10,000 people in Grand Forks, North Dakota, as that's less than half a pound each.

Belgium, that's the place for chips. A bit slow off the mark with the parachuting, I'll grant you, but it's not recommended on a full stomach. And, anyway, Belgium only achieved independence 175 years ago, which they've just been celebrating in Brussels with a mussels and chips festival where, according to reports, 15,000 people enjoyed five tons of chips provided by the Union National de Frituristes (Friers, to you, pal). Mussels from Brussels: marvellous.

All together now

Jumping, though. Do you, like me, tend to hang on to fascinating facts you were told by your schoolmates? Most of them seemed to involve people doing the most extraordinary things, either in private or in large numbers standing on the Isle of Wight; another was that if the entire Chinese population jumped at the same time, the world would spin off its axis.

I thought about this intriguing low-tech WMD again last week when I came across a mention of the International Earth Rotation Service. Did you know about them? I thought it kept going by itself. Anyway, the IERS is sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society and others, apparently, and is in charge of adding on leap seconds. Leap seconds! They adjust the difference between solar and atomic timekeeping: there have been 21 since 1972, which means that, on my figures, we'll get to a full minute in 2066.

And now, would you believe, there's a proposal to do without them. Listen, you can do a lot in a second. I can scratch my nose and Ashrita Furman can push an orange 44.9 inches with his (on v smooth lino by the look of it, since you ask). Seconds in! I now read, too, that Newton's Third Law of Motion, the equal and opposite reaction one, would keep the world on its axis; but I'm about as sure of that as I am of my maths and Ashrita's orange. Tell you what, why don't we all give it a try? Orange-nosing in your own time, obviously, but we'll need to co-ordinate the jump. How about one second after Tony starts his speech in Brighton?