“Curiouser and curiouser!”*

*Lewis Carroll (1865) Alice’s  Adventures in Wonderland, ch.2,’The Pool of  Tears’.

In this morning’s edition of The Museum of Curiosity (BBC Radio 4), the guests were comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, Natural History Museum curator Miranda Lowe, and doctor and author Roopa Farooki. I had a strange sense of deja vu as they chatted amiably and entertainingly.

Miranda Lowe declared proudly that she cares for a plethora of historically important specimens, including specimens from the Discovery and Challenger expeditions, and Darwin’s Barnacles.

Roopa Farooki explained that, having originally studied PPE, she wrote her first novel, Bitter Sweets (2007) while pregnant with her first child, and renovating a house in SW France. She graduated as a Doctor, aged 44, last year, and has now turned to children’s fiction featuring female BAME protagonists, with The Double Detectives Medical Mystery series at Oxford University Press. The first book, The Cure for A Crime, was published in 2020.

The penny dropped. A couple of months ago, I posted under the title “Think about laughter”, about Suzanne O’Sullivan, an Irish neurologist working in Britain who is the winner of the 2016 Wellcome Book Prize. She won for her first book, It’s All in Your Head: True Stories of Imaginary Illness, published by Chatto & Windus in 2015. The book also won the Royal Society of Biology General Book Prize: “I knew from an early stage that I wanted to be a neurologist. I enjoyed the detective drama of the job, unravelling the mysteries of how the nervous system communicates its messages…Think about laughter: it is a physical display of emotion whose mechanism is ill understood…”

My post went on to quote Bill Bryson, in A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) Chapter Twenty-Five:

“…(Charles Darwin) fathered ten children, devoted nearly eight years to writing an exhaustive opus on barnacles (“I hate a barnacle as no man ever did before,” he sighed, understandably, upon the work’s conclusion) and fell prey to strange disorders that left him chronically listless, faint, and “flurried”, as he put it.”

(From Wikipedia: “(John) Bowlby’s last work, published posthumously (1991), is a biography of Charles Darwin, which discusses Darwin’s “mysterious illness” and whether it was psychosomatic. In this work, Bowlby explained that:

“In order to obtain a clear understanding of the current relationships existing between members of any family it is usually illuminating to examine how the pattern of family relationships has evolved. That leads to a study of earlier generations, the calamities and other events that may have affected their lives and the patterns of family interaction that results. In the case of the family in which Darwin grew up, I believe such study to be amply rewarding. For that reason alone it would be necessary to start with his grandfathers’ generation.” “)

On 27 July 2009, with only 5 weeks’ training and no significant prior running experience, Eddie Izzard began seven weeks of back-to-back marathon runs (with Sundays off) across the UK to raise money for Sport Relief. He ran from London to Cardiff to Belfast to Edinburgh and back to London, carrying the flag of the country—England, Scotland, or Wales—in which he was running. In Northern Ireland he carried a self-designed green flag bearing a white dove. The blog Eddie Iz Running documented his 43 marathons in 51 days, covering at least 27 miles per day (totalling more than 1,100 miles), ending on 15 September 2009.

The programme’s “Professor of Ignorance” John Lloyd asked innocently:

“And now, I hear, you’re planning to run for Parliament, and I wanted to ask, how many Parliaments are you going to run for, in how many days?”

Eddie Izzard, indulgently: “I know, that’s a very funny question…”

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