Daily Archives: October 12, 2008

The cocktail stick: an appreciation

What can one make of the simple cocktail stick?

A sliver of wood, with a sharp point at each end, it can, surely, only have been invented by someone interested in making it into the Guinness Book of Records for the longest splinter on record.

Rumour has it, though, that it first made its appearance in New York around the time cocktails were invented: possible the roaring Twenties, or the wheezing Thirties, maybe even earlier, in the tubercular Teenies. Famously used for the ubiquitous maraschino cherry, it was seen as something to twirl coquettishly while twinkling over your Harvey Wallbanger, or whatever.

Now more commonly used for the humble pickled onion, its star has somehow waned, one suspects. The pickled onion has plenty to commend it – notably the sharp vinegar tang, and the first crunch when you bite into it – but it’s hardly as sophisticated as an exotic cocktail.

Other environments in which the cocktail stick has been spotted include:

1 Stuck in little sausages, or pineapple and cheese at retro Seventies parties
2 Stuck in Oranges, with small sweets skewered upon them, at church Christingle services around Christmas time
3 Er, that’s about it

Possible future uses could include:

1 Providing a cut-price bed of nails for hard-up circus performers
2 A cheap, recession-friendly mini Jack Straws game
3 As toothpicks for the risk-takers among us

A&E departments around the world probably all have tales of casualties admitted with a part or whole cocktail stick jiggling merrily in the internals somewhere, and they’re certainly sharp enough to qualify as javelins for any passing leprechauns.

More recent times have of course brought the plastic cocktail stick – multi-coloured but just as sharp.
If you have any printable experiences to relate involving cocktail sticks – do let me know.

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10 matters of key national importance

At times I worry that some of the things I write about border on the trivial. At other times I worry that I may have the gift of understatement. Most of the time, I don’t worry much at all.

But occasionally I have to set myself writing tasks.

Here are some possible subjects I may be exploring over the coming days. Or ignoring entirely.

1 Cheese and its place in the cosmos
2 Cocktail sticks: a social history
3 Why kangeroos cannot pass wind (it’s true – I saw it on QI the other day)
4 Can you get a loan from a bottle bank?
5 Are cardboard clothes just an impossible dream?
6 Where exactly is Stoke Poges?
7 Kazoos and the jazz dynamic
8 Why carpets signal the end of civilisation as we know it
9 Nectar of the gods, and the stuff the gods rejected
10 A celebration of celery

Feel free to comment if you have pearls of wisdom on these vital issues. Or just poorly considered rubbish. Comment is free, after all.

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One man went to mow

One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow. One man and his dog, went to mow a meadow.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d query the value of the dog. It would tend to scurry about, getting in the way and not generally being much use in the mowing department. Unless, of course, it was a trained mower and was able to give the man a break from time to time. It could, at a stretch, be a highly skilled mower and thus render the man’s presence pretty irrelevant.

Maybe the dog had poor eyesight and so needed the man to take him to the meadow, get him sorted with the mower and turn him round at each end. Sort of a guide dog, in reverse.

Then again, maybe he was just there because of the song. But you don’t get too many popular songs or nursery rhymes with an entirely gratuitous animal planted in it, just to make it scan, but of no relevance to the action. Hickory Dickory Dock, for instance, has the mouse in a fairly central role. Running UP the clock before, of course, running DOWN again following the striking of the hour. Hardly peripheral.

Three Blind Mice, again, features the rodents in a strongly central role – admittedly sharing some of the limelight with the farmer’s wife – but clearly not stuck in on a whim as merely hapless victims of the knife-wielding maniac with a disturbing hobby of collecting mouse tails.

Mind you, you are tempted to wonder exactly why the mice are blind, and what this adds to the scenario. “Three blind mice – see how they run”. With extreme care, one would presume, with a fair bit of bonking straight into bits of furniture. And was the farmer’s wife performing her tail removal in a carefully planned operation, rodents in hand, or wildly slashing at them as they scampered past? In which case a meat cleaver might have achieved more, you’d have thought.

One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow. One man and his mouse, went to mow a meadow. Now there’s a idea to conjure with.

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