P&J Column 18.1.18

Hail to the Great Muckle Sumph in Chief

View from the Midden; rural news with Jock Alexander from MTv (Meiklewartle Television)

Well it’s been a controversial wik in the village. Obviously as this is a femly paper I cannot quote directly fit the Great Muckle Sumph In Chief is alleged tae hiv said. (Even though they were a’ saying it oot loud on Channel 4 News at lunchtime the ither day – fit is the world coming tae? You would niver hiv hid that fae Kennedy Thomson.) However, fit scunnered me wis the response fae the Whitehoose; pleitering aboot over precisely fit coorse thing he did or didnae say, rather than daeing fit my mither wid hae deen tae me if I’d said the like – and gi’ed him a skelpit lug and taen awa his toys. And his twitter account. And his nuclear launch codes.

It fair minded me on the unfortunate wye that Feel Moira behaved at a recent meeting of the local W.I. Noo, I’ve nae mentioned her Presidency for a filie, but, lik ither despots, she is still somehow clinging on tae power; and she said some affa things aboot wifies fae ither villages that hid expressed an interest in coming inaboot tae jine. “Fit wye do we need fowk fae Durno and Mains o’ Glack?” she is reported tae hiv said, (though tae be fair, at wid be the langest sentence she’s iver uttered). My response to which, of course, wis; ‘If they wint tae tracchle a’ the wye oot here tae Meiklewartle tae bake fruit loaf and rinse oot cake tins for you, you should be grateful. So g’wa and bile yer heed, ye daft bisom.”   Noo, I didna say it oot loud, of course, but I thocht it. Weel, unlike some folk, Moira really is 6 foot 3 and 17 stane. And his hands like shovels. Cheerio!

Professor Hector J Schlenk; Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for the public engagement in Science

As a scientist, people are always asking me questions like, Will there ever be a manned base on Mars?”, “What’s the weather like on Venus?” and “Can I see Uranus with a telescope”. The answers to which are ‘Eventually’, ‘Infernal’ and ‘Drowned out by sniggering’. Recently though, they’ve mostly been asking about sternutation. That’s the scientific name for “sneezing” which hit the headlines this week after it emerged that a poor chap ruptured his throat after pinching his nose to hold in a particular forceful sneeze.

Sneezing is as natural a process as belching and flatulence, though it nestles comfortably below those bodily expulsions on the Gumble Scale of Social Unacceptability; which means it’s the one you can do on a first date without fear of ostracism (prejudice against large flightless birds).

The purpose of a sneeze is to expel foreign particles and irritants from the nasal cavity, which is a bit like when your grandmother used to beat her duster at the scullery door, except with more noise and mucus. Although, as my grandmother suffered chronic emphysema, in her case the similarity was palpable.

There are many possible causes for sneezing, including dust, germs and pollen. Some studies suggest that staring at bright light, like the sun can also bring on a sneezing fit – though there is a lack of empirical evidence to support this theory, and little chance of obtaining any in the North-East of Scotland. There is even some research to suggest that a state of sexual arousal may bring on a bout, though Mrs Schlenk has advised that I stick to more conventional methods of communicating my ardor, such as paying her some actual attention for once.

Current advice provides us all with something of a nasal dilemma. Holding in or stifling a sneeze can cause serious physiological harm, so when our nostrils tickle we should give it both barrels and let it all out. Yet the bacterial contents of a sneeze can travel up to 8 metres and remain airborne for up to 4 minutes, potentially spreading disease. The traditional method of catching one’s germs, the cotton handkerchief, has been shown to act as an incubator for contagions, meaning my parents’ generation essentially walked around with a top pocket full of tuberculosis, or whooping cough tucked into their sleeve. So what is one to do when a sneeze is impending? Personally, I carry with me an empty Pringles tube. When nature calls, I remove the lid, carefully blast my airborne pathogens within and then seal it up for safe keeping. This keeps me germ-free in polite company – though perhaps something of a health hazard at an informal buffet.

See the Flying Pigs Live in ‘Now That’s What I Call Methlick’ at HMT Aberdeen June 26th-30th 2018