Thursday, 20 September 2007

Next, Peggy Babcock

My old friend Grumio, for whose intellect, percipience and erudition I have long had the greatest respect, emailed this to me the other day:

I learnt the history of Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper today, that is, who Peter Piper was. Am I very behind? Did everyone know this except me?

I replied that he and I may well be the only ones who had not known this, and he came back with:

Why, he was Pierre Poivre, of course, yer actual Frenchman who smashed the Dutch monopoly on nutmeg by picking a peck of pickled pepper from the Dutch-controlled Moluccas and taking it to Mauritius and starting a whole new spice island from scratch and preventing us having to call it notemuskaat all our lives. Piper is Latin for pepper. The pepper was pickled in brine so as to survive the voyage. Here he is, looking a bit smug, I grant you. I find that dead interesting, me.

In all honesty I had to tell him that I found this piece of information to be perhaps not-long-for-this-world interesting but certainly rather less than dead interesting, and that the picture of this French person which he attached was not at all interesting.

Moreover, the information itself is confusing: nutmeg (one of two spices obtained from the tree Myristica Fragrans, the other being mace), has nothing to do with pepper, pickled or not. It also fails to mention the fact that on a journey to the East Indies Pierre Poivre was involved in a naval battle with the British and that he was struck by a cannonball on the wrist, an injury requiring amputation of part of his right arm.

Come to think of it, that is not tremendously interesting, either, so perhaps I was being hard on Grumio. It was just that I can normally count on a man who contributes under pseudonyms to two satirical magazines, and who writes brilliant and witty essays, also pseudonymously, in several respected monthlies, to provide me on a Monday morning with something more substantial in the way of intellectual sustenance than this stuff about nutmeg.


Grumio said...

What a gripping post. One of your most fascinating ever, I should say. Yes. Yes.

hugh said...

Who is this Babcock person? What is her game, and what, pray, does she have to do with nutmeg?

Tony said...

Grumio, all is forgiven.

Hugh, Peter Piper is a tongue-twister and so is Peggy Babcock: try to say her name three times, quickly. And I have better things to do than answer your piffling queries. Please do not leave any more comments.

outeast said...

Tony, I oft have said that you are a hard, hard man.

Tony said...

To whom?
On what occasion?
With what justification?

Explain yourself, you creature of the shadows.

Who the hell are you, anyway?

outeast said...

You've demanded before to know my secret identity, I think, yet I am
but a breath of passing wind in the night, or somesuch.

You don't know me, if that's what you're wondering, though we may well have passed on the streets of a certain sussex town in the past for all I know.

Running a blog is a bit like living in a stately home, i'm afraid - you just have to put up with the odd riff or raff turning up uninvited and having a poke around the furniture.

Tony said...

All right, outeast, remain incognito if you must, though it does suggest that you have some discreditable secret to hide. There's no disgrace in having been in Belmarsh, you know; on the other hand, if the Sussex town where I might have seen you is Eastbourne or Bexhill then I quite understand your reticence.

Riff-raff feel at home in OMF and are positively welcome to contribute. Do call again.