The man in the lovat Cavalry Tweed suit drained the last of his pint, loudly belched a beery fug laced with peanuts and bumptious pontification, and turned expectantly towards the man in the moleskin waistcoat who had barley sucked the froth from his own drink. “Your round, squire, I think,” he said.
“Bloody hell,” said Moleskin. “You got a shift on didn’t you?”
“Yes, well, as Archimedes pointed out, a man is only as heavy as the amount he can drink. You, my friend, are bordering upon reedy.”
“Eureka!” said the man in the Meerkat T-shirt as he painstakingly attempted to remove shards of Cavalry Tweed’s eructation from the head of his stout.
“What does?” said CT, tapping his glass impatiently.
“Eureka. It’s what Archimedes said after he sloshed his bath water all over the bath rug.”
“No, you my friend are mixing him up with Aristotle when he discovered logic: my glass is empty, therefore it needs filling. ‘I think, therefore I am.’”
“Descartes,” muttered moleskin, gathering up the glasses and heading, reluctantly to the bar. “It was Descartes who said that – ‘cogito, ergo sum’- not Aristotle.”
CT chuckled loudly. “Cogito, ergo sum,” he said, means ‘like clockwork’. It is actually the motto of Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club. Didn’t they teach you nothing up that posh boys school of yours?”
Moleskin bridled. The hairs on the back of his neck rose in a villus concert. “I did not go to a posh boys school. I went to a state grammar school.”
“Of course,” said CT. “I forgot. So,” he continued, “how many girls were there?”
Moleskin passed a twenty pound note over to the barman. “My point,” he said, quietly contained, “is that it was not a posh boys school. It was simply a boys school.” He placed the three glasses onto the table a little more heavily than was strictly necessary. “You did not need to be posh to go there, you simply needed to be able to demonstrate a certain level of education…”
“…Attainable only to those who did not have to be up at sparrow’s fart to do their paper round and thus supplement the family income,” sneered CT.
“You never had a paper round!”
“Not for the want of trying, sunbeam. They were all taken up by you posh boys whose dad’s took them round in the family Volvo. My battered old hand-me-down bike did not conform to the corporate image.”
“Corporate image? It was a local paper shop. Mr and Mrs Singh would not have cared if you went round on a pogo stick as long as you got the papers delivered. You never got a round because you were bolshie even then.”
“Didn’t he have a principle of some kind?” asked Meerkat.
“Mr Singh? What kind of principle?”
“No, Archimedes. Didn’t he have a principal? Something about a solid object displacing its own weight in water…”
“Common mistake,” said CT. “Firstly, what Archimedes invented was the screw – everything was nailed before he came along – and secondly, when you put something in water, what it actually displaces is its own volume in water e.g. drop an elephant in your average bath and you’re going to wind up with suds on the downstairs carpet.”
“Unless the object was absorbent, I suppose.”
“Not many absorbent elephants around though,” chuckled Moleskin.
“That,” said CT, “is where you are mistaken. All elephants are absorbent due to where they live in the desert. It’s why they have humps…”
The man in the moleskin waistcoat opened his mouth to object, but his attention was taken by the man in the Meerkat T-shirt who was taking peanuts from the packet and dropping them into his pint, where they floated on the, as yet, untroubled head. “How come,” he said, as he tried to get the last few peanut shards from the packet “those huge boats don’t push all the water out of the sea?”
“Well, they do, in a manner of speaking,” said CT. “They cause the tides, don’t they.”
“No they don’t,” said Moleskin. “That’s the moon.”
“The moon?” laughed CT. “The moon? Have you gone mad? Might cause a bit of sloshing around, I’ll give you that, as the Earth goes around it every day, but not the tides. Have you ever been stood there when a big boat goes by? That’s where your waves come from sunshine. That’s the tides.”
Meerkat looked on solemnly as the salt slowly flattened his beer and the disappearing head lost its grip on the nuts which sank to the bottom of the glass. “I don’t think I fancy a cruise,” he said.
“I must admit,” said Moleskin, “I never quite understand why they don’t turn over, those big liners. There’s so much more above the water than below it.”
“Kaleidoscopes,” said CT.
“You must have seen them. Set ‘em spinning and they’ll balance on anything. Send them scuttling along a piece of string or whatever. They never fall off.”
“Do you mean a gyroscope?” asked Moleskin.
“Or a cat,” suggested Meerkat.
“They don’t fall off things, do they? And…” continued Meerkat, his face suffused with triumph, “…and they always land on their feet.”
“Are you suggesting that ships have feet?”
“No. Don’t be stupid. What I’m suggesting is that if you filled ships with cats, they’d never fall over. Man’s best friend and all that…”
“That’s a dog, surely.”
“Dog’s don’t always land on their feet,” said Meerkat after a short pause for thought. “Also, only one life. Cats are nine times more cost-effective. You don’t have to keep replacing cats.”
Cavalry Twill and Moleskin lifted their glasses in unison and drank in quiet contemplation as Meerkat tried to retrieve the peanuts from the base of his glass with a knife.
“Where would you put the passengers?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if you filled the ship with cats, where would you put the passengers?”
“They would have to share.”
“Except for those who are scared of them, of course” sneered CT, staring directly at Moleskin.
“I am not scared of cats,” he replied. “I am allergic to them. They affect my breathing.”
“Yes, it’s always difficult to control your breathing when you’re terrified.”
Moleskin drained the beer from his glass and thumped it down on the table in front of CT. “Like when it’s your round,” he said.
The man in the Cavalry Twill glanced casually at his watch, drained his own glass and rose to his feet. “Good Lord,” he said. “Is that the time? Must get on. Carpe Diem, and all that” he said. “God is a fish…”
The Meaning of Life #1 can be found here.
The Meaning of Life #2 is here.