Ask any halfway sane person where they go to find out the latest information on peas, and chances are theyâ€™ll say â€œHooting Yard, of course!â€ We have a proud record of bringing pea news to the masses, and in keeping with that here is a communiquÃ© from roving Hooting Yard reporter Tristan Shuddery, received yesterday:
Dear Frank : This is an important fact that you may wish to file somewhere in your
pulsating cranium. According to Wikipedia’s article about the aviator and recluse Howard Hughes: “In the 1930s, close friends reported he was obsessed with the size of peas.”
An earlier pea-related dispatch is archived in October 2005 (see Monday 10th), but to save you looking it up I thought Iâ€™d reprint part of it here:
They’re small, green, solid, edible spheres, and you eke them from pods. I am talking about peas, of course! Let us sing their praises:
At the dinner tables of Hooting Yard / There’s a food we hold in high regard / Oh I wonder what can it be? / It’s the little green edible sphere called the pea!
The shelling of peas has long been recognised as a therapeutic activity on a par with pig observation. Some doctors of the brain recommend that neurasthenic patients should spend an hour each day shelling peas and another hour leaning over the fence of a sty watching pigs. The experimental psychiatrist Tarpin Paltrow suggested doing both at the same time, with results that have been hotly debated ever since.
It was Paltrow’s student P K Spaceman who coined the term PQ, for pea quotient. Your PQ is easily calculated. Take the number of peas you have eaten in your lifetime, and divide it by your age. This figure can be plotted on a grid against, for example, your body mass index, rotundity of head, shoe size, and various phrenological data. Dr Spaceman was fond of citing Lloyd George’s view that Neville Chamberlain had “a wrong-shaped head” and put this down to a lack of peas in the latter’s diet. Sometimes he attributed it to a lack of peas in the former’s diet, too.
In desperate circumstances, for example when one’s life is at risk, peas can become useful tools, or at least adjuncts to tools. There is the story of the Antarctic explorer, clinging by his frostbitten fingertips to the edge of a crevasse down which he was about to plunge, who managed to clamber up on to the ice by fashioning a harness using ribbons, elastic bands and frozen peas.
Peas have been compared with planets, sometimes, by poets. The author of the song we heard at the beginning of this piece wrote other pea-related verses, in one of which he takes each planet in turn – using the mnemonic “mud, vinegar, ectoplasm, moorhens, jasper, straubenzee, unspeakable, Nixon, popinjay” – and contemplates them as peas in a pod, not yet shelled by one of Dr Spaceman’s wild-eyed brain-sick patients. There is no mention of pigs in the poem. Make of that what you will.