Prime ministers and oversize vegetables: It’s the news from Britain

Britain has a new prime minister, but before we get depressed let’s change the subject and talk about the man in Hampshire who grew the world’s longest cucumber–3’ 8”, or 1.12 meters if you prefer. It weighed 17 pounds, or 7.7 kilos. Or quite possibly both.

What’s the point of growing a vegetable that big? Well, you could make 400 cucumber sandwiches out of it, but only if you like cucumber sandwiches made with tasteless cukes and have a few hundred close friends who do. 

How do I know it’s tasteless? I don’t. It could be bitter. It could have the texture of cardboard packing material. What I do know (since the article I stole this from said so) is that it’s destined for the compost heap, not the table.

In the meantime, we still have that new prime minister. The last one’s been dumped on the compost heap, but only because we didn’t have the heart to deposit him where he belongs. The current one, I predict, will be as much use as a three-and-a-half-foot cucumber and do considerably more damage. Already she’s put someone who talks about “climate alarmism” in charge of energy and climate change. But then, to be fair, I don’t know that the job description specifies working against climate change. It may not. 

Okay, these are blackberries, not cucumbers, and they’re normal size, but this is as close as we get to a relevant photo around here.


What goes into a cucumber sandwich? 

Sliced cukes, preferably with the rind cut off. Butter (or cream cheese). Something herby or some black pepper. One recipe (not the one I’m linking to; it had too many popups) suggests a squeeze of lemon, which sounds like it’ll give you soggy bread, but hey, it’s your sandwich so do what you like. 

Put all that on white bread–lots of white bread–preferably with the crusts cut off so you don’t mistake your 400 sandwiches for anything colorful. Then cut them into triangles, giving you, um, 1,600 sandwich pieces, and you make a huge pot of tea.

If you arrange the triangles on tastefully bleak white plates, they will be practically invisible. 


But forget that. Let’s introduce the bike bus

Kids in a Glasgow primary school can ride the bike bus to school on Fridays.

A bike bus is basically a group of kids and parents moving through traffic like a school of fish. It was started by a parent who’d read about something similar in Barcelona. Because impatient drivers were becoming a problem, the lead bike is now rigged with a gizmo that changes the traffic light at a particularly messy intersection for long enough for 50 or so riders to cross. 

Interviews with the kids were predictably informative. One likes ringing his bell. Another likes talking to her friend on the way to school. And a third has a new bike and it’s red and orange. 


What’s happening in the rest of the world?

Well, researchers at the University of Michigan (which is not in Britain) have developed a wind turbine blade that can be recycled into gummy bears.

I’m tempted to stop there, leaving you with an image of gummy bears mysteriously falling from the sky in a disorganized gummy rainbow when the blades reach the end of their first life. But (however briefly) I’m having a responsible moment, so I’ll explain.

The blades are made from a mix of glass fibers, a plant-based polymer, and a synthetic polymer. When the blades are ready to be replaced, instead of joining that great wind turbine in the sky, they break down (with a little help from an alkaline solution) into their component parts, which can be used to make new turbine blades, or tail lights, or gummy bears, or sports drinks. To demonstrate how safe that is, one of the researchers, John Dorgan, publicly ate a gummy bear they’d made.

“A carbon atom derived from a plant, like corn or grass, is no different from a carbon atom that came from a fossil fuel,” he said. “It’s all part of the global carbon cycle, and we’ve shown that we can go from biomass in the field to durable plastic materials and back to foodstuffs.”

Turbine blades can be as much as half the length of a football field, making them an awkward addition to a landfill. 

Is that a US football field or what the rest of the world calls a football field and Americans insist is a soccer field? I’m not sure. I’m not even sure how the sizes of the two fields compare. What I do know is that the new blades can be recycled endlessly. Unless you eat them. 


The urine of the Southeast Asian binturong smells like buttered popcorn. Why is that true? Because they both contain 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, which smells the same whether it’s at the movies or being excreted onto dead leaves. 

Did you need to know that? Probably not, but now that you do you can’t unknow it–at least not unless memory does its loving job of erasing it for you.

You can thank the Encyclopedia Britannica’s “One Good Fact” email newsletter for that gem, and I can’t give you a link because it doesn’t work that way. You’ll just have to trust me on this.


Copyright news

The copyright’s expiring on some of the classic modern novels, and that means you can buy cheap editions online. 

What do you get for your money? Less than you’d expect, according to a recent (if February is recent) article. An edition of The Great Gatsby ends mid-paragraph and three pages before the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, thought it did.

Another edition is dedicated not to Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, as the original was, but to “Logan and Olivia Barbrook / May your lives be filled with wonderful stories, great adventures and happily-ever-afters, Love Mummy.”

Which somehow doesn’t sound like Fitzgerald. 

One edition changes Fitzgeralds line “At any rate, Miss Baker’s lips fluttered” to “Anyway, Miss Baker’s lipped frizzed.”

Then there’s the cover. One edition showed a couple next to something that looks more or less like a 1980s Dodge Charger. That’s prescient for a book first published in 1925. It’s enough to make your lips frizz.


Let’s go back to oversize vegetables

In Nebraska, Duane Hansen paddled 38 miles down the Missouri River in the hollowed-out 846-pound pumpkin that he grew. 

“I probably won’t try this again,” he said, since it was a little cramped in there. However, no politicians were harmed in the setting of what is unquestionably a world record.


In which we see humanity at its best

Somewhere above Europe, two Air France pilots got in a fistfight in the cockpit. The cabin crew heard the noise, went in, and broke up the fight, with one of them staying in the cockpit until the plane landed to keep the pilots in their seats and flying the plane.

The BBC tells us that France’s air investigation body said the airline’s culture “lacked rigor when it came to safety procedures.”

36 thoughts on “Prime ministers and oversize vegetables: It’s the news from Britain

    • I’m sure there is a good reason, but as a galvanized Brit, and a late adopter at that, I’m not sure what it would be. But I have been here long enough to know that when you can’t explain something any other way, the class system’s a fair guess. Think we can get away with that here?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your new sovereign is almost bound to put a new spin on “climate alarmism” even though he is supposed (now) to be above the political fray.

    Gummy bears are becoming a preferred way to administer medical marijuana here in the US so I wonder what the wind turbine people have been snacking on.

    The bike bus and step=o=saurus sounds wonderful. Over here. in our relatively rural area, school buses come to pick the kids up but so many parents drop off and pick up what our guidance counselor called “their little hot house plants” that they blocked the buses from pulling in and sometimes got in fights.

    I have had cucumber sandwiches – I went to high tea at The Ritz Carlton with some other retired teachers. The hostess brought us the wine selection and Mrs. R commented !”Oh That’s a good wine ! I got some at Marc’s!” ( a discount grocery) The hostess managed not to laugh,, but she was not as offended as one might have imagined.

    I think you have mentioned you are not much of a monarchist, but I am an American still a bit awed by all the pomp and circumstance. For someone who was never out of the spotlight from the moment her father became King, QE II did her job with poise and aplomb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll bet the good wine cost a lot less at Marc’s. Did it go well with cucumber sandwiches? Which reminds me to wonder whether Americans awed by British culture manage to eat more cucumber sandwiches than the un-awed British do.

      I will make my way through the day thinking of CBD-laced gummy bears falling from the sky. It’s going to be an interesting day. Thank you.


  2. I’d like to fly the flag for cucumber sandwiches as I really rather like them :) I keep the crusts on my fresh – preferably sourdough – white bread, and add freshly ground pepper and use nice butter.

    I’m still chortling at the thought of propellers flying off into the air when they reach their end of life and falling to the earth as gummy bears. Do they taste good? I’ve never eaten one.

    As for Liz Truss and her cabinet, the less said the better, on the basis of if you can’t say anything nice…


    • I won’t try to explain this, but you left me with an image of Liz Truss sitting around the table with a cabinet of gummy bears. In a few weeks we’ll find out whether that’s accurate or not. Do gummy bears taste good? I’m not a big candy-eater–I worked in a candy factory for a while and it cured me of any interest in candy. But I’ve had a few. They taste like chewy sugar to me. All the interest is in the texture. But then, I’m probably not the best judge.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not a fan of anything gummy since for my son’s second grade birthday party (back when parents could bring treats) I made “dirt”. It’s layers of cool whip, crushed oreos and chocolate pudding. Since dirt has worms, I added gummy worms. The kids liked it but I thought it was a little off-putting to bite into something with a texture remarkably similar to worms, even though I don’t really know the texture of worms since I haven’t eaten one, at least not on purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

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