Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Man's Roadkill is another Man's Dinner

I have just finished re-reading Simon Winchester's "The Map that Changed the World" which is about William Smith and the founding of modern Geology. Winchester is a marvelous writer with a knack for really interesting digressions. One that made me laugh out loud is this piece on the Former Dean of the School of Earthly Sciences at Oxford, William Buckland:

"He tried to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom, offering mice in batter and steaks of bison and crocodile to guests at breakfast, but reserving the viler things for himself — he declared that he found mole perfectly horrible, and the only thing worse was that fat English housefly known colloquially as a bluebottle. His sense of taste seems not to have been ruined by such experimentation — he once found his carriage stranded in the nighttime fog somewhere west of London, scooped some dirt from the road and tasted it and declared to his companions, in relief, "Gentlemen — Uxbridge!"

He was a great skeptic, particularly where Catholics were concerned. Once, led to a dark stain on the flagstones of an Italian Cathedral, which the local prelate insisted was the newly liquefied blood of a well-known martyr, he dropped to his knees, licked the darkened spot, and announced that in fact it was the urine of a bat."

I don't think it is possible to come up with a rejoinder to that last line. If you haven't read any of Simon Winchester's books, resolve to fix the matter — soon.