It was the tales of the Botfly larva wriggling around in a human’s brain that was probably the most enduring imagined noise left in the audience’s minds after this week’s Monkey Cage recording. Apparently, the larva make a blood curdling scratching sound within your skull. The man, on the brink of suicide, was cured by a shaman. I sensed Brian Cox was enthralled by the story, but a little worried that the denouement was cure by shaman.
Later, in the green room, there was a discussion about dengue fever.
“I think I might have had dengue fever once”, said Professor Brian Cox.
“oh, if you thought you might just have had dengue fever, then you didn’t have dengue fever”, said the woman who definitely had had dengue fever, before she started explaining about the bleeding of internal organs.
Brian accepted he might have confused dengue fever with heartburn after a 1995 Chateau Neufe Du Pape (though secretly, I think he though, “I did, I really did”).
Then, the botfly was mentioned again and we all started psychosomatically scratching our skulls.
This first recording of our new series was about the deadliest toxins, venoms, and most unsociable behaviour to have developed on the planet earth during life’s process of mutation, heredity and natural selection. When the first venoms evolved, and why? How angry are platypuses? Can sloths survive a nuclear war? And why do people think Daddy Longlegs are so poisonous?
At times, it resembled the scene in Jaws, where Quint, Brody and the one Richard Dreyfus played, try to outdo each other on the scars and injury league table. As we had Steve Backshall on, Andy Hamilton and I were reasonably certain we wouldn’t outdo him, though Andy has been pursued by a hippotamus’s harem and stood naked over a scorpion before a soldier came to stamp on it for him (for full details, you’ll have to wait for the show).
I think the most I can muster is being annoyed by a crane fly while trying to meet a deadline.
Lucy Cooke told us about the moment a bullet ant landed on her left breast (the repeated use of the phrase “My Left Breast” leading to visions of a most unusual sequel to that Daniel Day Lewis movie) , and how the tears of joy at seeing a tree frog almost led to her gloved death.
Steve Backshall’s knowledge of poisons, toxins, venom and their molecular structure suggests he may be named Strictly champion after a mysterious bout of poison dart “accidents”. Typically, he soon raised the ante on the one bullet ant scenario with a tale of 400 bullet ant stings, and not by accident either. My distracting crane fly story was becoming more insipid with each new anecdote, perhaps I should have mentioned that time I put a steel pin in a plug socket?
The man is an idiot, but a really knowledgeable idiot who is possibly the only person whose presence makes my chatty son (the chattiness must be genetic, I presume from my wife’s side) mute and nervous. His ability to excite children about the natural world is remarkably infectious, somewhat different to my generation’s introduction to wildlife by watching Johnny Morris making up the voice of snooty gnu (it was a good snooty gnu though).
As with most recordings, we only covered about one third of what we had hoped, tune in to find out the slowest acting venom and the most poisonous elbows in nature.
I wish we did more than 12 a year (actually it will be 13 this year as we have a Christmas special), but this was a vivacious start to the new series.
A top panel and a top producer. Oh, and one letter that summed it up.
“I like your show, especially the way Brian explains the science and how Robin does his funny voices” . Sums it up really.
Back again in December.
I am on tour talking about brains, minds, and my occipital lobe – Harrogate, Nottingham, Alnwick, Bath Spa, Bristol, Goole, Bridgwater and on and on. Dates HERE
Brian and I will be putting on another two of our Hammersmith Christmas shows in aid of Medecins Sans Frontieres and Student Scholarship funds http://www.eventim.co.uk/brian-cox-and-robin-ince-tickets.html?affiliate=TW4&doc=artistPages/tickets&fun=artist&action=tickets&kuid=473474
next tour show is in Bristol – http://www.thecomedybox.co.uk/site/index.asp
and doing a talk in Worthing http://worthing.skepticsinthepub.org/Event.aspx/2264/Anniversary-Celebration