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Day 44 (30 April): On religion, science and philosophy

I have written about pig slurry on more than one occasion and at the risk of seeming obsessed (coprophilia - saves you looking it up) I would like to discuss chickenshit today. I did not wake up thinking “Thursday. Chickenshit Day!” No. I woke up and read an article on the BBC News App about Walpurgis Night.

Many of us might not have heard of this feast but nevertheless, it is Walpurgis Night in Luton, Delhi and Pamplona in the same way that 25 December is Christmas Day on Mars and Jupiter. There is no requirement for you or I or E.T. to be aware of these feasts in order for them to be a thing. While I’m being philosophical I should also tell you that the sound of one hand clapping is deafening and 37 is both the minimum and maximum number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin.

But on with my story, such as it is.

The origins of Walpurgis Night date back to pagan celebrations of Spring.

It is a big celebration in Scandinavia, Finland, the Baltic States, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Cardiff. Note that I didn’t fall into the trap of including Finland in Scandinavia. This blog might not always be funny but it does try to respect geographical sensitivities. Saint Walpurga was the sister of Saint Willibald; I am not a betting man but I find this notable because:

- what are the odds of having two saints in one family?

- what are the odds of one of them naming himself after his depilatory habits?

It turns out Walpurga's father was a saint as well which, although plain greedy, would have won you a fortune had you got all three.

Walpurga, celebrated witch fighter and bungee jumper, was also a dab hand at fighting off plagues. So perhaps not the saint you want to offend right now.

What is the point of all this in the context of confinement?

The Swedish city of Lund, foolishly placing more faith in science than superstition or presidential tips, is to spread chicken manure in its central park in an effort to deter crowds gathering to celebrate Walpurgis Night.

"Lund could very well become an epicentre for the spread of the coronavirus on the last night in April," the chairman of the local council's environment committee, Gustav Lundblad, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper (too late, its under the kitty litter). Defending the decision to spread chicken manure in the park, he said: "We get the opportunity to fertilise the lawns, and at the same time it will stink and so it may not be so nice to sit and drink beer."

The man is clearly not a serious beer drinker.

I zoom conferenced with my brother, a very serious beer drinker, to elicit his input.

I gave him the task of applying his vast practical drinking experience to an academic problem.

"How much beer would you have to drink before you stopped noticing the smell?".

He put down his lagerbucket and began calculating. His chosen starting point was "beer goggle" sexual attraction data, which he then adapted on the back of a computational beermat and came up with the following:

You can see from the graph how many beers should be consumed before entering the park. We took it as a given that the quantity of chicken shit used is public information. We are, after all, talking Scandinavia here.

Of course, the authorities could turn the whole thing on its head and just add more manure as a function of beers sold. But by the time they worked that out people would be past caring.

Other times

I was reminded on Facebook this morning of what I was doing one year ago today.

It is pretty much what I would have been doing right now had we not been in lockdown. I was walking across Sicily on the Magna Via Francigena. I enclose the link to a one minute video of my febrile Camino musings as a reminder that there are big open spaces out there, but some very odd people, so take care when you get out.

Lots of love from all of us to all of us!



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