Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Stealthy sea mist, helpful glow worms and beehive bombs

Monday evening was one of those nights when the mist from the sea spreads from its watery origin, creeps across the land silently, and envelops everything in its damp grasp. Sometimes you can witness the noiseless conquest, as it weaves its way through the trees at the bottom of the garden and oozes its way across the whole area; within minutes everything is wrapped in its eerie grip.

Letting Biggles out last thing at night is usually not too much of a problem, as the white tip on his tail never fails to signal where he is. However, this little beacon is obscured from view in the murky embrace of sea mist, and you are forced to shadow his every move to ensure that his whereabouts are known. After all, it is no use just standing at the back door repetitively calling the poor soul if he has ‘gone to see a dog about a man’ as that could have disastrous results if the meeting were only half convened.

You know me enough by now to know that I have the tendency to ramble on about different things in blogs. Sometimes one thing leads to another and sometimes there is absolutely no connection whatsoever. This offering is one of the latter breed, so I offer no apologies and proudly proclaim, ‘And now for something completely different’. However, in writing that, the last paragraph below is somewhat reminiscent of Pythonesque humour.

The trenches in World War 1 are to where I sidetrack. Not shrouded in mist but under cover of darkness; a darkness that could not be penetrated by the light of a lamp for fear of deathly consequences. I discovered last night that soldiers used the soft light from glow worms by which to read messages and maps. I had never heard of this before, and after a long time searching the internet I could, unfortunately, only come up with recasts of the above sentence, but no further information. I did glean though that soldiers also used to attach pieces of rotten wood to their helmets to avoid colliding with each other in the night; not to act as some weird sensory form of whiskers, but by utilising the luminescence that the rotting wood afforded. I then discovered that during the Second World War fire watchers used to cover the wood in timber yards with tarpaulins in order to keep any glow hidden from enemy aircraft. They just don’t teach such fascinating little gems of information in history lessons, more’s the pity. It would make the learning so much more interesting to hear such fascinating little snippets.

During my investigative efforts delving for more information on the glow worms, I came across something else that I had never heard or read before - the Romans used to catapult beehives into besieged fortresses. Yes, rather distasteful but you have to admit that it was a very innovative idea to use such things as weapons. Also, during the Middle Ages beehives used to be occasionally dropped on to the heads of an attacking army. It certainly gives new meaning to the 50s/60s favourite - ‘beehive hairdo’.

As Jon points out, is this one of the earliest form of biological warfare, or do any of you know of anything that predates the Romans?

1 comment:

Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

One of these might come in handy where Biggles is concerned, then: http://www.glow.co.uk/acatalog/DROPLIT-DOG.html

alternatively the trick I used with a Jack Russell terrier, which was to attach a small cat-bell to this dog's collar is also a useful trick; not only do you know where the dog is, but it also warns the local wildlife (useful with a terrier whose greatest joy in life is terrorising the local rabbit population).