Wednesday, January 7, 2009


The pygmies lived in the jungle, singing more beautifully and strangely than birds. "You won't ever eat us, will you?" they asked their taller neighbours.

"Don't be silly," the neighbours told them in soothing voices. "You're too small and chewy."

"We should not feel hurt by that," the pygmies said to one another, "but we do."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Greatest Place on Earth: The Netherlands

The people of the Netherlands were great engineers confronted by threatening seas. They built dykes to keep the water out of their country. Water felt insulted by this, and sent a delegation of raindrops to complain.

"We are water. We feel rebuked. Remove those dykes."

"No. We don't want to be flooded. We don't want to drown. We can't farm our land if it's under water."



"Very well then. We didn't want to threaten you but you leave us no choice. Did you know," said the raindrops, frowning, "that the human body is ninety per cent water?"

"That seems like a lot."

"Or eighty or sixty, or something like that, we don't remember exactly," water said in a nettled way, "but our point is that you can't live without us. If you don't remove those dykes, we will remove ourselves from your bodies."

The people did not like being threatened. "We will not give in, you bullies."

"Very well. From dawn tomorrow onwards the people of this country will have no water in their bodies. Think about it." The raindrops withdrew.

The people gathered together to debate strategy. "What are we going to do? We can't live without water in our bodies."

"Who says it has to be water? Any liquid will do. Why should water be so special?"

"You're right. What can we use as a substitute?"


"No, nice idea but if we're full of oil we'll explode every time we go near fires."


That sounded like the solution until someone at the back raised her hand and said apologetically, "I'm lactose intolerent."

"What do you suggest then?" the elder stateman asked her.

"Red cordial?"

Undiluted red cordial was the obvious answer. It did not contain any substance found in nature and therefore no delegations of raindrops or rocks or any other nature-oriented thing could ever be sent to protest against their use of it. So they replaced all of the water in their bodies with red cordial.

Immediately ever the entire population was fiercely energised and did everything ever conceived. The Netherlands became the greatest place on Earth.

Monday, January 5, 2009


The flâneurs were wandering through Paris, peering and staring at everything interesting. "Look at that," murmured one, "a wonderful array of stuffed animals and a birdcage full of pincushions."

"See there," sighed a second, "a marvellous wall of lithographs and a forest of corsets."

"Oh, observe," muttered a third in ecstasy, "a tremendous collection of mirrors."

"Stop pointing at us," said the other two.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stupid Hill

In the year 1900, General Sir Charles Warren decided that his soldiers were going to occupy the peak of a tall hill named Spion Kop. "Men," he said, "go up that hill in the fog." The whole affair was a disaster in ways that you can read about in history books.

"Stupid hill," he raged afterwards. "Stupid, stupid hill! Everybody listen to me! From now on that hill is to be known as 'Stupid Hill.'"

"But it already has a name."

"Yes it does. The name is Stupid Hill."

"No, Spion Kop."

"Stupid Hill!"

"Spion Kop."

Nobody was persuaded. "I'll become a cartographer and change it myself!" So he left the military and studied cartography. During years of study he learnt a million things about the world that he had not known before. He learnt the dimensions of valleys and the constitutions of plateaus. He learnt about the weather in distant places he had never visited. He learnt about the housing that people constructed on mountainsides, and the ways in which they made plain land arable. Then he learnt about the societies of these people, their habits and laws, their histories and rulers, the pets they liked to keep, the songs they liked to sing, their languages, and their systems of writing. He taught himself six new languages and obtained a koto, which he played on moonlit nights, under a blanket of stars, while wearing a hat in the style of a South American Indian.

After all this he graduated. Finally he was a qualified cartographer. "What are you going to do now?' his fellow cartographers asked, much impressed with his accomplishments.

"This," he said. Leaning across a map of South Africa, he crossed out the words 'Spion Kop' and wrote in 'Stupid Hill.'

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bathysphere II: Bazamba

She built a bathysphere.

"See: it goes underwater in the bath."

"No, no, ha ha, you've got the wrong idea. I know it's a bathysphere, but you see, the word means --"

But she was already underwater.

"I saw a deep sea trench!" she said when she resurfaced. "And a dozen species unknown to science. Molten lava steaming from the rock!"

"You are disembarking in the soap dish."

"It's the only way!"

A plastic duck bobbed by in a frenzy.

"She has disturbed the monster of the deep! Bazamba comes! Fly, fly, you fools!"

Bazamba emerged from the deep. A giant baby. Thrown out with the bathwater once, and forgotten.

"Gwar! Roar!"

Moral: Don't mess with nature.

Friday, May 30, 2008


"Please don't be vulgar," her mother pleaded. "Don't call the child any of those silly modern names, like Bylynda with a y, or Lateesha-Camille with a hyphen. Call it something nice. Give it one of those old-fashioned names like Hope or Charity, some quality that you'd like the baby to aspire to."

"Very well," the daughter said, and she named the baby 1337.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Talking to the hand

Moliere had a coughing fit while playing the title role of his play The Hypochondriac, and died of it. "Unfortunate," agreed the spokesperson for windpipes, " but we windpipes have to draw attention to ourselves somehow."


"Because we have demands."

"What demands?"

"Better working hours. Among other things. I have a list here from our union."

"What if we say no?"

"You have a windpipe, don't you?" The spokesperson smiled. "Think about it."

They paled.

"Yes, but -- better working hours? We can't --"

"Uh!" The spokesperson held up a palm. "Talk to the hand."

"Frankly I couldn't care less one way or the other," the hand said.