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Though fair-haired people are not so strong as those with dark hair, they usually live longer.

The Nelson Evening Mail, Wednesday, July 15 1908

The comedian Joe Pasquale (born Joseph Ellis Pasquale) has not died.

The US government spends more per head on their dysfunctional healthcare system than the UK spends per person on the NHS.

There is not much colour in Lincolnshire.

There is a cricket team called the British Guiana Boers. They play in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mandarin and Arabic are different.

People who eat dark chocolate are less likely to be depressed than those who don’t.

Owls are the second-least intelligent birds in the world.

76.5% of Sri Lankans believe that members of their parliament have unexplained wealth.

You don’t have to spend the night alone.

Leeds Castle have late-availability wedding offers from just £7950.

The English-language folk song ‘Bobby Shafto’s Gone to Sea’ has a Roud index number of 1359.

Anthony McGowan has been named the Adidas High School Wrestler of the Week.

Batman gifs are the height of orientalism.


Leather trunks were used in Rome as early as the time of Caesar.

The Nelson Evening Mail, Friday, September 28 1906

Tilda Swinton has been elected leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour began outside a kebab shop in Kent.

The complete works of James Joyce are available for £0.75.

‘Twirly’ is an adjective meaning to be excited not only sexually, but also emotionally.

World Tiger Day is celebrated on the 29th of July.

Some cats eyes have been removed in Devon.

Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard would put coffee on his sugar (and not the other way around).

King George III of England built a secret palace at Kew.

George Best airport has been voted the best airport in Ireland, for the 13th year running.

There have been changes to YouTube’s terms of service.

In 2016 the citizens of India planted 50m trees in a single day. That record has now been claimed by Ethiopia, with 350m.

Three people have been shot dead at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California.

With Tampax you can do everything… but feel nothing.


The maximum suicide age is between 65 and 75.

The Nelson Evening Mail, Thursday, August 9 1906

Forest Green Cricket Club accepts no liability for damage to vehicles parked on the green whilst a game is in progress.

There are pros and cons to time-travelling while black.

Pope Gregory declared the rooster the most suitable emblem of Christianity.

Not a single person was killed in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

People who watch Fox News know less about international affairs than people who do not watch any news at all.

There is a music-genre known as ‘turbo-folk’.

You never need to use your own vaginal yeast to make bread.

Raymond Joseph Teller taught high school Latin for six years.

Artists in North Korea are employed by the state.

The Duchess of Sutherland is commemorated on a Partick urinal.

Noisy, hungry frogs sadden farmers’ lives.

The Ashmolean Museum is 336 years old.

There is too much stuff.

Black samurai

Yasuke: The True Story of an African Samurai
by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard
£20 (hardback)

In late July 1579, an enormous, well-dressed and well-armed African bodyguard stepped off a boat into the southern Japanese port of Kochinotsu.

Yasuke – perhaps from ‘Isaac’ in Amharic – had (probably) been abducted as a child by neighbouring Nilotic tribesmen, sold into slavery, and, by 23ish, already travelled (and fought) through northeast Africa, Arabia, and round the long coasts of both India and China.

His employer was the ‘most important Catholic in all of Asia’, Alessandro Valignano, papal ‘Visitor to the Indies’, here to impress the One True Faith upon the Japanese, and build on unsure Catholic footholds in the country.

But Yasuke promptly stole the show. He needed two beds, wore three men’s clothes sewn into one, and couldn’t fit through basic doors. His was a very noticeably muscular Christianity – and his blackness, far from hindering, had potentially divine connotations among the Japanese.

In the next three years he learned their ‘outlandish’ language, was given away (or sold?) to a mercurial warlord, nearly died thanks to an enthusiastic, festive mob, found himself exalted to the status of samurai, served at the forefront of ‘The Age of The Country at War’ – and then abruptly disappeared from the historical record.

The number of direct and unambiguous references to Yasuke in that record, though, is tiny, and beyond the ninjas, monks and ruthless warlords, typhoons, cliff-falls and disease that make up this undeniably rollicking historical yarn (both films and graphic novels have been fashioned out of it), much of this book is, of necessity, about the Jesuits and/or the Japanese internal conflicts of the 16th century.

The co-authorship of a Tokyo-based academic (Lockley) and a ‘historical adventure non-fiction’ writer (Girard) is not without its problems, either. The narrative leans lustily towards the Game of Thrones end of the spectrum, and the boisterous prose is well stocked with unverifiable adjectives, use of the word ‘likely’, and glimpses of Yasuke’s thought-process which surely cannot be substantiated. The extensive research is amply evidenced, but the delivery (there are no footnotes or attributions, per se) leaves the reader unclear as to which threads are the solid historical warp and weft and which are the more speculative embroidery. The chronology can be quite evasive. And there are sporadic and slightly effortful references to latter-day race/gender/slavery issues, which aren’t really in keeping with the adventure-story tone.

All of this, however, opens plenty of interesting windows into seafaring, high-caste homosexuality, palace architecture, and more – and the considerable endnotes and bibliography will be a trove for anyone who might prefer the sterner, rather more scholarly approach.

For Geographical

Out and aboutpost

Outpost: a journey to the wild ends of the earth
by Dan Richards
£16.99 (hardback)

Imagination fired by a picture of his father outside an Arctic shed, artist and writer Dan Richards sets off in search of places that ‘allow mankind a foothold in otherwise inhospitable terrain’.

Icelandic ‘houses of joy’ (not what they sound like), fire-watching belvederes, a Mars-research training facility, an offshore lighthouse: Richards hankers after the ‘astringent’ and ‘spartan’ architectures of these fixtures built ‘where nature takes over’. And though he’s not the type to wrestle overmuch with definitions, the bothies of the Highlands perhaps come closest to his ideal of ‘small emergency refuge shelter only.’

Ranulph Fiennes he is not, however. Slightly harried, somewhat clumsy (he smashes his phone before he even gets to Iceland), terribly enthusiastic, the tone of Outpost is part adventure/travelogue, part live-in art project. He has a tendency to the poetic phrase, and is extremely generous towards artistic sensibilities (not all readers will be convinced by the Turner Prize-winning shed-made-into-a-boat-then-into-a-shed-again chapter), but he avoids the pitfalls of a lot of earnest and/or politically-motivated nature writing. And while he dutifully name-checks the usual suspects like Robert Macfarlane, Roger Deakin and Wendell Berry, he is by inclination, one feels, more likely to refer to Werner Herzog movies, or Björk.

The end result is like a more-upbeat Geoff Dyer, written in engaging and thoughtful prose – literally: he narrates his thoughts sometimes – with occasional mock-ingenuousness, and cheerful punning. He has a nicely self-deflating sense of humour (the Arctic shed, he notes, is just that: a common-or-garden shed, noteworthy only for the fact that it’s in Svalbard). I chuckled frequently. He’s also not afraid of detours or of anticlimaxes, and is creditably shy of being seen to ‘retrofit significance’.

It would be wrong to suggest Outpost is more about the journeys than the destinations – but Richards’ real talent is in people-watching. One of his outposts is in fact a writers’ retreat in Switzerland (complete with heated floors), in which he concludes that few of us, honestly, do our best work in isolation. And just how viable is that sort of lonely travel, these days? ‘How far was far enough to truly be remote’? (One wonders, frankly, if more folk mightn’t travel further/harder if ‘not dying’ was more or less their sole objective).

Quite fittingly, he never makes it to Ny-Ålesund, whither his father went: it is protected now. Jack Kerouac wrote that ‘no man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness’. To this Dan Richards adds the imperative of ‘making guardians of consumers’ in our besieged environment.

For Geographical


Thomas King was fined 12s, or eight days’ hard labour, at the Thames Police Court for intoxication. While in this state he asked a pawnbroker to advance 2s on a baby.

The Nelson Evening Mail, Wednesday, April 10 1907

There are 2000 non-functioning satellites in space.

Lord Reith did not want people to enjoy the radio.

New species are discovered every week in jungles.

Friday night is lobster night.

Church people are just shitty to each other.

Aethelred the Unready was merely ill-advised.

Ceylons are usually more mellow in character than Indians.

Townspeople in Kyoto gather to stare at severed heads.

The start of Yr12 is twenty times harder than people think it will be.

A PhD could be done on the word ‘cruxway’.

The Panama Canal runs North to South.

It costs $17,500US to outfit one American soldier.

There’s nothing necessarily reassuring about the order of things.

My father helps correct a Work In Progress




as a pious

ing the intimate nature of this, a first offence in vert or venison
which was admittedly an incautious but, at its wildest, a partial ex-
ing the intimate nature of this, a first offence in vert or venison

ildiot repeated

[Balbaccio, balbuccio!]  Italics

New paragraph  a pillarbox? [The............................

Alocutionist, Deposed,

Italics  [Animadiabolum, mene credidisti mortuum?]………

Italics  [(hypnos...............
chilia eonion!)]


laying all

all aside, laying

as would turn

Armoury … Sir Rumoury

of the peace


gentleman is(?).

and his burialplot

82 bis

Holy Baba And the Forty Thieves
Prisson your Pritchards and Play Withers Team




……..[Nom de  Italics

leave. Had Days. Nemo

Italics  [in omnibus moribus et temporibus]…….


p261 n4
Bhing, said the her burglar’s head, soto poce.

p262 n1

p266 nl
Bet you fippence,
there’s no pug-

[haec genua Omnia]  Italics

[nolens volens]  Italics

p272 n1
that, ma’am?

p278 n3

p282 n2
Lawdy Dawdy Simpers 

p285 n2
Barneycaorroall, a precedent for the prodection of curiosituy from children.

No paragraph  ]Germanon.………………..



Indent  [Till the Juke done it...............


Ordinary type  [The thing pleased him andt, and andt, [and ff.]…………
No paragraph……………………………………………………………………

from orw 


The giant sun

Italics  [Auxilium Meum Solo A Domino]……..

This time a hundred years!
No gap
— But I was firm with her.




Ivory-tower thinking

Review of Future Cities: Architecture and the Imagination, by Paul Dobraszczyk.

For Geographical


On an average there is only one sudden death among women to eight among men.

The Nelson Evening Mail, Tuesday, September 25 1906

The Earl of Oxford did not write Fleabag.

Hull is other people.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci chose to stick the with most ridiculous crap name that they could think of.

Failure to yield causes one in five accidents in Ohio.

Justin Trudeau performs yoga.

The Incredible Hulk is better than Cúchulainn.

There are 67 million invented names on Facebook.

Silent and discreet masseuses do not exist in Russia.

Starfish taste very bitter.

The Rifle Volunteers are always ready – but not yet wanted.

The Space Bowl is again closed due to maintenance.

Leonardo da Vinci has a violin made from a horse’s skull, with silver on.

There seems no middle ground with borscht.


There are now about 54,000 Chinese coolies in the Transvaal gold mines.

The Nelson Evening Mail, Thursday, March 14 1907

Los Angeles is a lousy, boring little town. A European could die there from boredom.

January ain’t about the blues.

Piers Morgan is sick.

The veins of Englishmen flow with rainwater.

In a land with no fathers you get Chernobyl and Sellafield.

Andy Murray is a quilter.

A fast herd of deer is nothing more than a herd of fast deer.

It is illegal to take more than 5000 rupees into Sri Lanka.

Benedict Cumberbatch has personally caused Brexit.

Twentieth-century Western philosophy has forgotten air.

All shoplifters risk arrest.

No wine can be considered as unimportant since the marriage at Cana.

Dominic Hilton came out to his family at age 14, worked as a male escort well into his twenties, and engaged in homosexual acts with over 150 men. He now likes women.