Feedback is our weekly column of bizarre stories, implausible advertising claims, confusing instructions and more
12 January 2022
Feedback has a soft spot for hamsters, whose hoarding and nesting behaviours are similar to our own. Our feeling of oneness only increases with an article in The Atlantic forwarded to us by Peter Hamer: “You have no idea how hard it is to get a hamster drunk”.
Hamsters have a high tolerance for strong alcohol, we read, scoring low on a special scale of falling over sideways no matter how much they imbibe. We wonder how the statistics are skewed if you’re just going round and round on a wheel at the time, but nevertheless we add hamsters to our pile, accumulated over aeons, of animals that science says can take their booze.
This list includes bonobos, chimpanzees and bats, which is just as well, because getting entangled with an inebriated bat is a thought that doesn’t bear much thinking about. It most definitely doesn’t include cows, horses, rampaging elephants and the cedar waxwing bird. Their frequent collisions with fences and glass windows in the Los Angeles area were shown in 2012 to be down to the fruit of the Brazilian pepper tree fermenting in their internal food storage pouches.
Don’t try that at home. This being Dry January, we burrow deeper into our extensive piling system and root out a 1995 paper from the journal Physiology & Behavior that we were saving for bedding material. Entitled “Tomato juice, chocolate drink, and other fluids suppress volitional drinking of alcohol in the female Syrian golden hamster”, it provides a way to get your hamster off the wheel and onto the wagon: ply it with calorie-rich hot chocolate. We rarely say no to that, either.
What’s in a name?
“I know it’s a bit early to get up this year, but nominative determinism won’t go away just because you’re having a lie-in,” writes Mike Egan from County Meath in Ireland, ignoring the squeaking of our treadmill. We have only ever expressed that as a hope, Mike, not an expectation.
Elizabeth Economy is a senior adviser at the US Department of Commerce, he writes. Others point out that Mark Rocket is the chief executive of Kea Aerospace based in New Zealand, and duck lover Alan Gosling was named last week as the first person known to have contracted bird flu in the UK. Vegetation of the Peak District is a book passably reviewed by Nature on publication in 1913 that remarkably appears still to be in print, authored by C. E. Moss. Our sincere thanks to all as ever.
Big in Basingstoke
A tweet from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council sent in by Gwynneth Page indicates that we may have followers in that jewel of northern Hampshire. “Our street cleansing team have been sweeping leaves from the borough’s streets as part of our annual leaf clearance schedule,” they announced on 5 January. “Since October, the team have collected 560 tonnes of leaves – the equivalent to 112 adult elephants!”
Gwynneth confesses difficulty in visualising a pile of leaves equal to an elephant in weight. Us too, but we reckon that, spread out thinly, the whole lot would cover an area about the size of Basingstoke.
How much is that in football pitches? Courtesy, in a convoluted way, of an exchange of letters about measurement standards in the Financial Times drawn to our attention by Michael Zehse, we find ourselves consulting the The FA Guide to Pitch and Goalpost Dimensions for a steer.
If that sounds like fun, it is, revealing a line-up of recommended football pitch sizes ranging from 40 by 30 yards for the little ‘uns to 110 by 70 yards for the fully sized. Pre-revolutionary units still reign supreme in this corner of Merrie Olde England. We make that a full factor 6.4 range in football pitch sizes, which is a satisfyingly variable measurement standard. Just don’t complain about shifting the goalposts, they can be anything from 12 to 24 feet apart.
Ashes to ashes…
Congratulations to “Huntingdon in Bloom” – the Cambridgeshire town has received an Outstanding commendation in the Green Solutions category of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Community Awards 2021. Our thanks to Ralph Platten for pointing out that “of particular note is the recycling of heat generated by the UK’s first electric crematorium to warm a glasshouse that will be used to propagate and grow plants for the town’s flowerbeds, containers and community projects”. Charming.
“And finally” is a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of UK TV news viewers, indicating the imminent arrival of Whimsy. So, and finally, Dave Hawke from Devizes, UK, wins some form of kudos, not just for rocking one of the few English place names not stressed on its first syllable (Penzance; Carlisle; the -hamptons; feel free to go on your own mental journey), but for a late-breaking reply to our call for elementary names (11 December 2021).
He introduces us to the Um siblings, Ray D, Barry, (H)erbi, Ceri, Reni, Ruby and Moly B. D., “lastly not to forget Uncle Nick Hall”. Thank you, Dave, although if you’re looking for Pseudo Names, it is Private Eye you’re after. But frankly it’s Dry January, and we’ll do anything for laughs.
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