Cried Alice, one of my favourite people.
Some hot news from the UK last month was that a particular supermarket chain is now to sell only straight croissants. Curved ones are apparently “too hard to fit jam on easily”. As “croissant” means “crescent”, it seems to rather undercut the whole principle and history of the thing. Well, whatevs, as they say.
Of course, most EU member states had already committed to only selling straight bananas and vegetables; the others were seen as “imperfect” and maybe harder to pack. But what a curious rule, Alice would have thought, with offenders even unable to be sold as seconds, so simply thrown away. Now it seems that with world shortages of food, such rules for fruit and vegetables are considered inappropriate and a majority of EU states have voted for reform. Such bureaucratic regulations should surely all be subject to review with a big red pencil and the stern eyes of common sense.
A curious thought occurred to me recently, when gravitational waves were discovered. Did you hear the broadcast sounds they made? To my untrained ear they sounded just like whale song – perhaps an echo of the ending of that marvellous series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when the dolphins disappeared into space leaving the cryptic message, “So long, and thanks for all the fish”? (That was just before Earth was demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass … ) Perhaps, as Dame Edna would say, those gravitational wave sounds are “sort of kind of spooky… !”
The curious television series Ultimate Airport Dubai shows us that in a world of shrinking jobs, this airport employs 60,000 people. Roll on the Armidale airport redevelopment.
Again curiously, as we’ve been conscientiously buying up our low fat items in the supermarket, we are now told that this can lead to weight gain, rather than the reverse. This is Alice Through the Looking Glass stuff, as apparently the sugar is piled in for taste, plus people eat or drink so much more because they feel emptier. Oh yes, it’s hard to win in this curious world!
English columnist Rory Sutherland recently pointed out that “5% of people get to decide everything”. If that sounds curious, consider an example: if one dinner guest has a food intolerance, it usually affects everyone’s menu. And of course, this is thoughtful and sensitive and not really a problem, but if you take the same example philosophically into other fields such as political policies, then it can start to get much more complex. Well of course, politics world-wide couldn’t get curiouser and curiouser than it seems at the moment.
In a world that is absolutely dependent on clean water, it’s hardly curious that the US financial guru Warren Buffett is buying up water options. It’s just worrying. And as I’ve been writing this, someone on the radio is talking about “surveillance capitalism”, where your phone knows where you are and tries to profit from it. Your phone is very curious about you. And when an SMH Businessday Opinion is headlined Banking on ethics is risky business, is it just me – or is that a curious headline?
It has to be good for us to be curious about the way things happen around us. Perhaps it will make us content with what we have, or perhaps it will make us alarmed about things we should be aware of. Perhaps it will make us braver, and think more about the “whys” and what we can do to improve them. Chapter 2, where Alice cried, “Curiouser and curiouser”, was titled The Pool of Tears.
But never forget that the book took place in Wonderland, as overall we count our blessings here. I really mean it.
P.S. Glamping may be a curious idea to most of us, but it’s apparently gaining in popularity around the world. It’s a “glamour camp” in the bush for the happy tourist, with full catering and guidance about the environment, giving city travellers a special window on the world.