Sunday, August 24, 2003

"How long have I been trapped in a Luis Bunuel movie?" experience of the day

I was walking down Selhurst Road in south London. Two teenage girls were walking in the opposite direction. One of them stopped me.

"Excuse me?".

Normally when something like this happens they are going to ask me to go into a shop and buy cigarettes for them, or perhaps alcohol. My practice in such cases is to refuse. As a libertarian I think I probably do support their right to smoke cigarettes or drink whisky if they want to. I also support my right to not buy these things for them if I do not want to. In extreme cases I am then sworn at. If I am in a particularly bad word, I go on to demonstate that my fluency in Anglo-Saxon is greater than theirs. However, it seldom gets this far. But none of this happened today.

"Do you know if they had ice cream in Victorian times?"

My response to this was to be completely dumbstruck. This was not what I was expecting. The question really is whether the invention of ice cream came as a consequence of the invention of refrigeration, or whether it existed prior to this. And when was refrigeration invented, precisely? My guess was that yes, it had existed in the 19th century, but that it was a rare luxury that very few people could afford, and that mass production of ice cream dated from around the turn of the 20th century. But that was just a guess. (A little googling confirms that this is fairly right, but one has to say that, yes, they did have ice cream in Victorian times). Normally I take pride in being able to answer questions like this, but in this instance I really couldn't.

I smiled. "I have absolutely no idea".

The girl smiled back, looked vaguely disappointed, and walked off.

I have, however, seen plenty of foxes recently.

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