P&J Column 16.6.16

Seagull Massala

The Seagull has landed; in the Tikka Masala.

Professor Hector J Schlenk, Senior research fellow at the Bogton Institute. 

As a scientist, people are forever asking me questions: questions like, “Will solar-powered airplanes ever become commercially viable?”, “Would Brexit really threaten the future of UK scientific research?” and “If Americans can readily accept that preventing the carriage of liquids on aircraft is likely to make them safer, why do they fail to appreciate that allowing people to own assault weapons is a staggeringly bad idea?” To which I answer, “Not in my lifetime”; “Ian Duncan Smith was willing to charge victims of domestic violence a bedroom tax of £20 a week for having a police-approved panic room; do you really think he’s the kind of fellow who will open up the purse strings to fund blue-sky scientific research?” and “I am a humble man of science; some mysteries are beyond my ken, and even beyond my friend Ken’s ken.”

This week, following a couple of particularly eye-catching news stories, people have been asking me mainly about seagulls. A Welsh seagull managed to dye itself a remarkable shade of orange after face-planting into a vat of curry; a story on which I have three observations. Firstly, gulls, as naturally curious scavengers who are becoming increasingly integrated into human society are unusually susceptible to this sort of pratfall. Secondly, the story was not quite as alarming as I thought it was going to be when I saw the headline, “seagull found in chicken curry.” Thirdly, despite the fact that gulls share only 60% of their DNA with humans, the poor afflicted bird still somehow managed to pull off exactly the same look of wounded dignity as my research assistant Eric did when he fell asleep in his lamb bhuna during the works Christmas night out.

I was further reminded of the similarity between human and avian life-forms when I read the story of Oliver, a magnificent bird of prey who had to take cover mere seconds into a falconry exhibition after being set upon by a gang of unruly seagulls. For some reason, when I read that story, I thought of the occasion when I required to shield myself from a fusillade of paper planes propelled by my enthusiastic but challenging first year science class. The raptor’s rescue party found Oliver cowering round the back of a bungalow. Mine found me locked into the downstairs staff toilet.

Cava Kenny Cordiner, the football pundit who knows what it’s like to be on your final warning from the sport’s governing body.

And we’re off! After months of emancipation, Euro 2016 has finally arrived and Old Kenny is rubbing his hands with glue! There is nothing I like more than gorging myself on the beautiful game, and this tournament is a verifiable fast of football.UEFA has expanded it to 24 teams, which means that alongside the traditional powder houses of European football like your Italys, your West Germanys and your Spaniels, we find some of the minnows like Northern Ireland and Albania. Sadly, of course, Scotland is not in amongst them, and it doesn’t half rub salt in the wind when you hear some of the games coming up. Like Iceland v Hungary. That doesn’t sound like an international football match at all, it’s more like what Melody says to me when she’s sending me out for the messages.

England made their typical start to a tournament; they looked like they’d got off to a flyer and would destroy anyone who stood in their way, only to be caught out by a sucker punch from the well-organised and disciplined Russians. And much the same could be says about their football team!

But Old Kenny’s moment of the tournament so far was in the Albania v Switzerland game when the commentator was saying that there was a player on each team that was brothers with each other. I thought he’d made a bit of a Colemanballs, like that famous commentator David Colemanballs used to do all the time. But it turns out he was right! Imagine what that must be like for the boys’ parents? It got me thinking of my pal Dunter Duncan. He’s got 2 boys, Shuggie and Dougie. Shuggie was born in Aberdeen but Dougie was born when Dunter and his wife was living down in Manchester for legal reasons. There was a warrant out for him for non-payment of fines at Banff Sheriff Court. Dunter’s been worried ever since that his loons will grow up to play against each other – one for Scotland and one for England. Luckily for Dunter, though, it’ll never happen. I’ve seen them play, and they are mince.