Mrs Bun: Have you got anything without SPAM?
Waitress: Well, there’s SPAM, egg, sausage, and SPAM; that’s not got much SPAM in it.
Mrs Bun: I don’t want any SPAM!
Mr Bun: Why can’t she have egg, bacon, SPAM, and sausage?
Mrs Bun: That’s got SPAM in it!
Mr Bun: Hasn’t got as much SPAM in it as SPAM, egg, sausage, and SPAM, has it?
Vikings: [singing] SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM… Lovely SPAM! Wonderful SPAM!
It’s ridiculous really.
“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy.
Time was always flexible in the hands of the late Douglas Adams. Well known for his intimate distrust of deadlines (“I love the whooshing noise they make as they fly by”, as he famously once said) and his spectacular bouts of writer’s block, he was thus an incorrigible procrastinator of the first order when it came to writing, and, on occasion, apparently had to be locked into a hotel room in order to complete the final draft of whichever novel he was writing at the time, only to be let out at intervals by his publisher for ‘supervised’ walks in case he should try to make a run for it!
He was, however, also a complete and utter genius. And I’m not the only one who reckons so; not by a factor of at least 15 million worldwide – as wildly improbable as that may sound (and, after that, anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem, as Trillian so wisely puts it). His books are held in great affection by people of all ages, all across the galaxy, and have now been translated into more than thirty languages (presumably not including Vogon, as they lack all sense of poetry).
The story of how this rather tall, very funny and, sadly, now equally late genius came to write the cult classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy novels, which celebrated their thirtieth anniversary on October 12th, is (unsurprisingly) equally unreliable time-wise. There are several versions of the moment inspiration struck, some which are more true than others. To a given value of true, of course.
Those of you who have followed this blog across the internet from its old home may well be aware of my slight obsession with the green parakeets that live wild in large flocks across parts of London and south east England. Not everyone does, but I absolutely love them – for their noisy, colourful, unmissable cheerfulness in this grey and often miserable city. They make me smile.
I was first told of their presence in London about ten years ago, and my initial reaction was one of complete disbelief until I saw a small flock of them noisily squawking their way over my parents’ back garden one summer afternoon. I was then intrigued enough to do a little research on these colourful birds, and soon realised that, for them, living in London must be the equivalent of a tropical holiday in comparison to their native environment. It may surprise some that these birds, whose natural home is among the foothills of the Himalayas, happily thrive in such an urban environment as London, but they do – and to such an extent that there is now talk of a cull to reduce their numbers, despite the fact that they are, at present, protected by law.
For those who have not yet encountered these brightly-coloured and noisy birds, you probably soon will; particularly if you live in south east England – it is estimated that there are currently 30,000 of these Ring-necked (or Rose-ringed) parakeets living wild across south-west London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, and the RSPB further estimates that their numbers will increase to at least 50,000 by next year.