Break the ice during those awkwardly silent tea breaks at the fiercely competitive Crochet Club’s monthly ‘Croch-off’ contests. Simply entertain the nervous crochers with incredible tales they’ll never forget – and will probably pass on to their friends, nogal.
Fire, fire burning bright…
Cases of spontaneous human combustion are rare, but they’ve occurred throughout history, and with apologies to vegans, let’s examine some of these explosive examples.
In the 1950s, a pretty young 19-year-old was dancing with her boyfriend in a London club when flames suddenly burst from her chest and back, and before the horrified dancers could beat out the fire, she was toast, if you catch my drift. No cigarettes or candles were near her, and she hadn’t been sniffing meths, yet the flames originated from within her body.
In the 17th century an old lady from Essex was found burnt to death in her cottage. Just her. Nothing else was singed or scorched, not even the blankets she was lying on.
In more modern times, on arriving at their building sites, two contractors on different projects burst into flame in their bakkies in front of their crews. The sealed petrol tanks were unaffected by the fires, as were the interiors of their cabs – just their bodies. Weird, nè?
Apparently, some drier-skinned people have higher levels of electrostatic energy in their bodies than others, and although rare, human incinerations have been reported around the world over time. I’m sure you have all felt a slight skop when touching a door handle or other metal object after strolling across your purple polyester shaggy carpet in your Crocs. That’s electrostatic energy escaping your body – and happens even if you don’t have a polyester carpet or Crocs.
Fortunately, it’s estimated that only one in a quarter-million folks have abnormally high voltage, and more fortunately, only a small percentage actually snuff it. So, relax – you’re probably OK.
It’s often useful to know the origins of particular words in case the kids ask, and you’re left scrambling for a reference book.
Pedigree: The old French phrase pied de grue meant ‘foot of the crane’. The arrow-shaped footprints looked similar to a family’s historical genealogical table (family tree), which traces your heritage/pedigree.
Eavesdrop: Before roof gutters were introduced, medieval dwellings had wide eaves to keep the rain away from the foundations. People lurking near doors and windows had to stand in this ‘eavesdrop’ space to be close enough to overhear conversations inside. They were subsequently labelled ‘eavesdroppers’.
Carnival: The Italians used the word to describe the week of feasting that preceded Lent, when Christians ‘went vegetarian’, and were forbidden to eat meat or even think of having a braai. The word comes from the Latin carnem levare – to remove meat.
Book: Early Europeans etched their records onto wafer-thin beechwood slices which they bound into bundles. The old Teutonic word for beech was bok, from which the word ‘book’ is derived.
In a range of experiments started in 1969, it was shown that music definitely has an effect on the growth of some plants. Tests on a variety of species like corn, squash and several different flowers were subjected to various musical genres.
Hard rock, as it turns out, was a bitter pill to swallow. It stunted the growth of some plants, and caused others to grow unusually tall at first, but with extremely small leaves. They required more water than usual, yet grew shorter roots.
Within weeks all the marigolds in the experiment had given up the ghost, while a few metres away, identical flowers – listening to classical music – were flourishing. A vineyard in the Boland (as seen on TV) plays a compilation of the less hysterical works written by 4B – Brahms, Bach, Beethoven and da Boys – which the winemaker suggests creates happier grapes and a more palatable wine.
The likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry didn’t give a fig though. They drank ‘hard tack’ anyway and weren’t concerned whether grapes were grumpy or not, so roll over Beethoven.