No Such Thing As A Fish - 522: No Such Thing As Monet's Bog Cottons

Episode Date: March 14, 2024

Dan, James, Anna and John Lloyd discuss Orwellian liars, neolithic fires, spicy pillories and dusty lilies. Visit for news about live shows, merchandise and more episodes.  J...oin Club Fish for ad-free episodes and exclusive bonus content at or

Discussion (0)
Starting point is 00:00:00 Hello and welcome to another episode of No Such Thing As A Fish, a weekly podcast coming to you from the QI offices in Hoburn. My name is Dan Schreiber, I am sitting here with Anna Tyshinsky, James Harkin, and John Lloyd. And once again, we have gathered around the microphones with our four favorite facts from the last seven days. And in no particular order, here we go. Starting with fact number one, and that is Johnny. My fact is, when the impressionist Claude Monet
Starting point is 00:00:42 lived at Giverny, he had six gardeners, one of whose whole job was to dust and wash the water lilies and clean the surface of the water. Wow. I guess if you're famous for painting water lilies, you want them to look as good as possible. Yeah, exactly. They need to be picturesque. Although maybe you wouldn't paint the bits of dust on them anyway, would you how do you dust a water lily?
Starting point is 00:01:06 Hmm I think you just wet it right yeah, yeah, yeah, but these are very special water lilies They were specially imported from Japan money was crazy about Japanese art Which you probably know just arrived in France when Japan opened up in the 1850s to the West right all these prints started arriving and all the impressionists were crazy about them And Monet got a real bargain in Zandarm He was in Holland for a bit and there was a porcelain dealer who didn't know that these Japanese prints were gonna Come on well finish and he wrapped all his China in them So money bought some cheap China with these amazing prints by Hokusai and Hiroshima
Starting point is 00:01:45 And I'm wearing a Hokusai and Hiroshige and all that. Oh wow, cool. Wow, and I'm wearing a Hokusai jumper today. My god, so you are. Is that deliberate? No. Do you know Hokusai is famous for this wave painting, people will know it, well it's on my jumper and it's around, and it comes from a set of paintings called, I think it's called 36 Views of Mount Fuji, but there's actually 46 Views of Mount Fuji in that set because he did 36 and they were so
Starting point is 00:02:12 popular he did another 10 but he didn't change the name. That's great. Too much effort, did he run out of energy just to the end? That's interesting because Monet also was famous for doing lots of paintings of the same thing, not just Waterlouis, steam trains he did, poplars, Haystacks was very popular. Same with Cézanne, who was a great mate of Monet's and Cézanne painted Mont Saint-Victoire I think 200 times and never felt he got it quite right. It was an extraordinary life because he struggled hugely with poverty and depression all his life. But by the time we're talking about the water lilies,
Starting point is 00:02:47 he'd suddenly got rich, you know. I think the thing that really kicked it off was the heiress to the singer sewing machine fortune. I think her name was something like Waynetta, something like that. Waynetta Slop. Waynetta Singer, what was she called? Winaretta Singer, she was called.
Starting point is 00:03:02 Wow. And she came to see Monet in 1886, and she loved his stuff and bought a painting. Suddenly, the whole place is full of Americans all coming to see him. It was. It was Americans, wasn't it? It was American money that came in.
Starting point is 00:03:14 And is it Cassatt, Mary Cassatt, who was one of the Impressionists? And she was arguably the most important one, because she was the one who got all the Americans really interested in it. Right. And then the Americans started buying all this stuff and then the impressionists just had loads of money and could do what they wanted. Yeah it's I found a real affinity with because I actually been to Zandam. In fact I bought a boat in Zandam and
Starting point is 00:03:38 moored it there for a year. And also poor view. And every man kind of story. And also poor view. And every man kind of story. Yeah. Because I often quote Monet, who had this great line, after 20 years the wall is still there, by which he meant to do things really well, you've got to get the other side of this block into the zone, into this. And I often quote that as something that I feel very much. But this is a guy who, aged 28, he threw himself into the
Starting point is 00:04:05 Seine and attempted to drown himself. Hmm. Yes. Luckily. What was his plan there? Because it was unsuccessful, of course. And if you can swim, I think it is quite hard to drown yourself, isn't it? Well, that was the problem. He jumped in and then regretted it immediately and remembered he was an incredibly good swimmer and didn't swim back to the shore.
Starting point is 00:04:20 It's currents. Currents take you under and stop you from getting back up. I know, but you've got to pick your bit. Like, if you can swim and I think it's quite hard to just not move your body. In order to paint a water lily, you need to be a water lily. Right. Perhaps that's what was going on there. He was that committed. That's really interesting that you say you identify with him, John, because he kind of reminded me of you as I was reading this,
Starting point is 00:04:42 because, as you say, he was such a perfectionist and like obsessive and did seem to have this conviction he wasn't doing well enough he had another quote that was my life has been nothing but a failure and all that's left for me to do is to destroy my paintings before I disappear oh yeah that's you John he did he did he destroyed 500 of his paintings in 1908 they had to cancel an exhibition because he'd slashed 15 of the paintings with a knife. Must have been seriously annoying for the gallery curators. But this is worrying, Hannah, because... I got halfway through that theory, I was like, why have I said this to my boss?
Starting point is 00:05:17 But go on. No, no, don't go down to the Thames and throw yourself in for God's sake. Have you read Steve Jobs' biography by Walter... Walter Isaacson? Yes. It's a searing book about this terribly complicated and really sort of mad person. And I suddenly thought Jobs' perfection is a bit like me. And I came back and I said to a friend, have you read the Steve Jobs bio?
Starting point is 00:05:39 And he said, yes. I said, do you think I'm a bit like Steve Jobs? And he went, um, you did genuinely go through a period of wearing Polar neck shirts. Was that after that biography? No, I've always worn them. Have you? I guess you were the original. He got it from you. It's a Navy thing. Yeah. And the thing about the, the number, the volume of paintings that he did back to Monet, uh, there's accounts of where he'd be painting a scene and almost like like
Starting point is 00:06:08 filming a movie where your lighting changes and that's it for the day you go get me another you know canvas and they might bring another canvas that he was painting yesterday at that exact time so then he could continue on that so he was constantly swapping in and out canvases of work in progress and he also used because he had so many Children because a very complicated private life is I'm sure you've discovered. Yeah, so similar to you again But yeah, and he would there were eight children in the house And he would get a swarm of them, each to carry a canvas,
Starting point is 00:06:45 and he'd trot off to the beach with all these children, work on all the canvases at once. Yeah. It sounds like chaos and actually this element of his life reminds me more of Dan Shriver in fact. Too many kids. And the next insult is leveled this way. It's just the chaotic number of children because yes, he was quite poverty stricken for a long time. Yeah. And then he took it. But then the art dealer who sold his art, who was Ernest Hoschede, he was also poverty stricken, went bankrupt, so moved in with Monet.
Starting point is 00:07:17 Ernest brought his wife, and I believe they're six children, in with Monet and Monet's wife and their two children. And then Monet fell in love with Ernest's wife and they're all, they can't pay rent. And it just sounds like hell, God knows how he was putting together these really peaceful, blissful paintings. Yeah, dad, where am I in those things? It's hard. I imagine stepping into that household would fill me with the same sense
Starting point is 00:07:41 of anxiety as like stepping into your house on a normal Saturday afternoon. Fair call. fair call. And we should say his gardens were unpopular with a certain cohort, basically his neighbours, right? Who were not fans because he subsumed everything to his art which went to the extent of him re-rooting a local river. The Roo, the River Roo, yeah. Yes, to feed his pond. And so all the neighbours who needed the river for their cattle farming and other things were like, well, this is our water. And then they all panicked because they thought the lilies would poison the water supply because they were foreign and exotic.
Starting point is 00:08:15 They were. The lilies are really interesting because they had been invented very recently because all the lilies in France were white and there's a guy called Boris Latour-Maliac who came up with the idea of crossing French lilies with Japanese lilies and he kind of crossed two together and came up with this new version and then he crossed that new version with some from North America to make all these different colors of lilies and actually the in-between version of lily that he made is now extinct so we can't make that bit of science that he did ever again because that the in-between
Starting point is 00:08:50 step has gone. Wow. But Monet's first order from this guy, we have it and he ordered a load of water lilies from him but he also ordered some water smart weed, a horn nut and some broad-leaved bog cotton. So those paintings could have been paintings of broad-leaved bog cotton, if that had taken better than his water lilies. The thing about him was that he was such an incredibly determined person. Renoir said if it wasn't for Monet, we'd have all given up, because he went on beyond the pain barrier all the time. They weren't massively liked at the very start
Starting point is 00:09:25 were they the Impressionists? No, no, it was incredibly unpopular. They were booed and laughed at. Yeah, the word Impressionism came as an insult. It was one of Monet's paintings was called Sunset and Impressionism. Impression Sunrise, yeah. Yeah, yeah, but then one of the critics
Starting point is 00:09:40 made some funny joke about it. I haven't written it down. All right. I have, he was called Louis Le Roy. And one of his lines on Impression Sunrise was, wallpaper in its original state is more finished than this seascape. Wow. Oh my goodness. And then when the Impressionists became famous, he then took all the credit for it.
Starting point is 00:09:58 He was very proud that he invented the name, but he'd rubbish them. Oh, really? How interesting. He was really rude about them. And then the second time they did an exhibition, it was described by a critic called Albert Wolff as a horrifying spectacle, five or six lunatics, one of whom is a woman. And the woman he's talking about is Berta Morisot.
Starting point is 00:10:19 And she's really interesting because she and her sisters were learning to paint. and they had a private tutor called Joseph Guichard and he warned their mother considering the characters of your daughters they will become painters. Do you realize what this means? In the upper class milieu to which you belong this will be revolutionary, I might say almost catastrophic. The idea that one of these girls might become a professional painter was just seen as not an acceptable profession. Yeah, people said they have declared war on beauty. That was the kind of idea of what they were doing. And Zola said they shouldn't be called impressionists, they should be called actualists.
Starting point is 00:10:58 Because that's what they were doing, they were painting the actual thing. Kind of like losing a beauty filter, I guess. They're not actually, because if water lilies look like that, then I think I've got something wrong with my eyesight. It's blurry. Aren't they painting their impression of it? I think you are used to seeing dusty water lilies. Yes.
Starting point is 00:11:16 No, because actually that painting that we named, which was the impression sunrise, I think he didn't have a name, and he was going to call it like Sunrise and someone said to me You can't really call it a sunrise because it doesn't really look like a sunrise and he said, okay We'll just put impression sunrise then and that's kind of eventually after the insult where impressionism Yeah, right thing about Mona is that he was famous and immensely rich in his lifetime quite unlike Van Gogh for example but
Starting point is 00:11:42 When forgets that he but they were that it was such a disaster at the beginning, so that exhibition that Louis Leroy commented on, when all the figures came in the Impressionists found they each owed 184 francs to the gallery. They actually lost money. It's like the Edinburgh Festival. And so they had another go. One of their few financial supporters decided to hold a lottery in which the first prize was one of Monet's friend Renoir's paintings. And they had this lottery.
Starting point is 00:12:14 And a local servant girl won the big prize. She didn't won the painting because she just had everyone boo it. So she got a cake. I don't know. If you offered me a painting, be it impressionist or not, or a cake, I know there are days when I'd go got a cake. I don't know if you offered me a painting be it impressionist or not or a cake I know there are days when I'd go for the cake. Yeah, short-termism isn't it? Exactly yeah because you have to go to the trouble of selling the painting in order to get the money to buy lots
Starting point is 00:12:34 of cake if that's how you want to do it and it's quicker just to get the cake. Really good point. Yeah yeah yeah. The thing I love most about Monet and I didn't really know anything about what he was painting I knew the water lilies but I didn't know about this garden and the maintenance of the garden was so that he had the perfect thing to paint. There was nothing left to the imagination. So it wasn't even just the water lilies. If trees that he were painting suddenly came into bloom and foliage is there, he'd hire gardeners to chop it away because it's getting in the way of what I had as the perfect painting. I've been to the garden. Have you? In Gervanille, yeah. It's just a garden with lots of tourists in it. But it's like... It's weird, you always painted the
Starting point is 00:13:08 tourists out of the pictures, didn't you? But it was like, it was a Japanese garden, that's what he called it, I think. Oh, that's what he was aiming for, a Japanese garden. Yes, it was, a Japanese bridge. Because it's got a Japanese bridge, like you say. And there's, now if you go to Japan, I can't remember which town it's in, but there's like a replica of it called the Monet pond. And so it's like he copied the Japanese gardens and now Japan has copied his garden and called it the Monet garden. That's great. So the garden itself didn't immediately become a public place. It was many years in the family. And then the son, when he passed away in 1966, he handed it
Starting point is 00:13:44 over and it became part of a museum and then open to the family. And then the son, when he passed away in 1966, he handed it over and it became part of a museum and then opened to the public. And they've had these amazing gardeners that have been working there ever since to preserve as close as possible to what he had. And so, as you said, James, they can't manufacture some of the plants anymore because a step is missing.
Starting point is 00:13:57 And so they have to find alternatives. But it's just, it's so wonderful reading the accounts of how they go through all his letters. They take the paintings and they hold them up exactly in the spot at the right distance and try and match the ponds to what is in the painting. So they're doing the exact same thing that he did but in reverse again. Yeah it's a really nice place to go. It's almost like Disneyland I would say. It's quite fake but it's like it's really really beautiful and it's definitely worth visiting.
Starting point is 00:14:22 He was almost killed in 1865 while painting. Oh, yeah. Yeah rogue discus Knocked him out 65 yeah, yeah 1865 he was painting in the open and there were a bunch of picnickers and Some children and a discus suddenly cave into shot and he brings a discus to English tourists It's what it says and so he ran to protect the kids Who brings a discus to a picnic? I know, who's? English tourists. That's amazing. That's what it says.
Starting point is 00:14:46 And so he ran to protect the kids, but in doing so took the, it's kind of like a Secret Service agent jumping in front of the president and taking the bullet. He took the discus. That's so funny. They say if it had hit him any higher, it might have, you know, it might have killed him. But it did, it knocked him out and he was, and he was bedridden for a while. So that exactly illustrates the QI principle, Dan, because I have read an entire book on Monet, a 300 page book on Monet, in great detail to research this thing. And
Starting point is 00:15:10 I didn't know that thing about the discus. Really? Yeah. And Dan got it from Buzzfeed to Top 10 flexible. Which impressionist are you most likely to be quiz. Stop the podcast. Stop the podcast. Hey, everyone. This week's episode of Fish is sponsored by HelloFresh. HelloFresh is the service you can use to make yourself a gourmet chef with none of the hassle. It's brilliant.
Starting point is 00:15:42 They deliver perfectly proportioned ingredients to your door door along with the recipes to make them. It's all really wholesome, really good for you food. For me, as someone who doesn't naturally eat vegetables, it forces you to eat vegetables without noticing it. Yeah, wow, that is such a good way of putting it because that's exactly what I like to do with my kids. I like to stealth feed them vegetables and we have used a bunch of HelloFresh recipes
Starting point is 00:16:07 that they've num num num down very nicely. So if you wanna get on board with this and experience the joys of meals like goats cheese and caramelized onion naanitza, what is that? It's delicious, I had it last night, I tell you that. Or a fragrant Thai style veg curry, which is what I'll be having tonight. So to get some of that, go to slash new fish and get 60% off your first order
Starting point is 00:16:32 and 25% off the next two months. That's right. Visit slash new fish and unlock more in your kitchen by using the link and getting 60% off your first order and 25% off the next two months. Do it now. On with the show. On with the podcast. Okay, it is time for fact number two and that is Anna. My fact this week is that Neolithic Europeans regularly burn their houses down for no apparent reason. That is Anna. My fact this week is that Neolithic Europeans regularly
Starting point is 00:17:05 burn their houses down for no apparent reason. Wow. That's amazing. It is unbelievable. So this is a culture called the Cucuteni-Tripillia culture, which is usually Neolithic cultures are named often, at least, on where the evidence of them is found. And they lived in southeastern Europe, and like Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, that kind of area
Starting point is 00:17:28 between about 5,100 BC and 2,800 BC with lots of variation in how it's dated. But the bizarre thing about them is from all the evidence we have, every 60 to 80 years, they just burned down all their houses. So weird. Yeah. And entire towns, really. So they were, a lot of people think they were like the first civilization because they suddenly had these huge towns. The settlement sizes increased by 20 times.
Starting point is 00:17:56 They sometimes call them cities, don't they? Yes. Yeah. I think that's a slightly optimistic. How do you know it was them burning them down rather than the neighbors coming along? Yeah, Anna. Well, how more do I know? I've done some extensive archaeology and I have learned a few things. So a lot of people have said it might be that. I think the reason they say it's not is that it would have taken
Starting point is 00:18:15 such a huge amount of fuel to do it. So a settlement of a hundred houses would require like four square miles of forest. And also it's so regular. It's this weird 60 to 80 cycle. Yeah, it's a weird theory as well, but they were actually reinforcing the structures when they were burning it because they found the walls actually hardened just like let's reset our houses, get everything out, let's burn the house down. And then well almost like firing a pot. Exactly. You know, you have your clay and then you've set it on fire and it makes it becomes hard.
Starting point is 00:18:46 But I think I read one thing saying that might not be true because eventually you would burn it and it would become really, really hard. And then if you wanted to build another house on it, it just made it really difficult because you can't put any foundations down because you just can't drill into it because in those days they didn't have the tools for it.
Starting point is 00:19:03 Yeah. One idea is that it might have been ceremonial why they were burning these down right? Because if you look at Çatalhöyük in Turkey, which is an area we've spoken about before, which is like a really old town, they did this as well and we can find out exactly how they did it. And every time they would take all the goods out of the house, then they would clean the house, then they would put arrowheads on the floor, and then the oven would be deliberately sort of knocked in and broken down, and then they would set fire to it. And it seems like they always set fire
Starting point is 00:19:34 from the south of the house, no matter when they did it. So perhaps, seeing as it was always the same in this particular part of Turkey, at least, maybe there was a ceremonial reason behind it. Yeah, and it does seem to have happened in a few other cultures as well. So perhaps that was just the done thing. They'd wonder why we don't burn our houses down. It's pretty amazing looking at drawings of what these places, cities, if we use that term, look like,
Starting point is 00:19:57 because they were massive buildings and I don't place massive buildings to 5000 BC. How massive are we talking, Dan? Well, OK. Burj Khalifa? Yeah, no, not that but multi-story They would have multi-story and some places would be if you can picture the example that's given is two entire basketball courts Would be the size of a place and that that's maybe that's my ignorance of history Certainly if you had that in central London, we're talking quite a few mil
Starting point is 00:20:22 if you had that in central London, we're talking quite a few mil. Oh, definitely. So I couldn't find many examples of Neolithic housing, but Jericho is interesting. Supposed to be the oldest city in the world. Did you know that? No. On the Palestinian West Bank. And the Tower of Jericho is the oldest stone building in the world, 8,000 years old. How interesting. Wow.
Starting point is 00:20:40 And the Neolithic housing in Jericho, they had the doors were in the roof. Did you know that? Oh, so they would enter... You had a ladder, you put a ladder up, you went in through the door and there's a ladder inside to go down to the ground floor. That's super fun. What was the reason for that? Because of defense, the whole thing is what's fascinating about it. I had to look up, remind myself what Neolithic meant and as far as I can gather, it basically starts with the invention of farming about 12,000 years ago, and ends with when bronze is invented
Starting point is 00:21:12 about 4,300 years ago. So it's about 8,000 years, so not that long. But the first humans came to Britain around 700,000 BC. So for 688,000 years, human beings were just sitting about eating fruit. Wandering around. Surviving. What was they were sitting about, really?
Starting point is 00:21:34 Just walking. They were wandering, yeah. Yeah, hunting, gathering. Yeah, and Neolithic basically describes the time that humans became, I suppose, what we are. Like civilization, we'd settled. We found farming, we discovered farming and so we just started sitting there, farming stuff our diets got much worse.
Starting point is 00:21:51 Jared Diamond says it was the worst thing that humans have ever done, doesn't he? Yeah, I think there's something to be said for that and everything moves terribly fast, so 688,000 years doing nothing and then suddenly suddenly you got farming 12,000 years ago Chickens domesticated 10,000 years ago roasted walnuts first eaten in France 8,000 years ago 6,000 years ago there were no white people then everybody was dark-skinned right and Then the first known pair of shoes is five thousand five hundred years ago So that's you my god and sorry with the game changer was the invention of the agriculture Agriculture is where we're talking about because everything follows from agriculture because first of all you get a class system because somebody's got to Be in charge somebody's got to decide things you get religion starts growing up
Starting point is 00:22:36 Yeah, I think it's probably older than that having grain and so your teeth get bad. That's right terrible teeth Yeah, and then you've got property. So people there's's defense, there's warfare, there's what we call civilization. But the problem, the real problem is, it's basically Anna's short-termism of cake versus Renoir. It's that by farming, you can get lots of calories very easily, so you don't have to work so hard to get your calories. But it's really bad in the long-term,
Starting point is 00:23:00 but it's really good in the short-term. One of the unfun things about it was that it introduced overwork. So people have looked at the lives of hunter-gatherers and it was dreamy. They were only working a few hours a day and then they would just be lying around in caves or whatever. And it was with agriculture where suddenly it became all about production production that people started working their arses off. And we haven't come far since then.
Starting point is 00:23:24 How was your month off? So you just had... LAUGHTER Yeah, they hadn't invented holidays and weekends yet, sure. Um, this particular culture were amazing, though. The, um, Cucuteni-Tripillia people, I thought an extraordinary thing about them is that they... There are lots of symbols on their pottery
Starting point is 00:23:44 that have been uncovered, completely well and they include and this is from as I think I said like 5000 BC they include both yin and yang symbols so those perfect yin yang symbols and swastikas swastikas yeah I saw that as well they came seem to come up with both and I can't really find out so they had naz. Yeah, it's very tense. That's why they kept burning each other's houses down. Isn't the swastika one of those sort of universal symbols it's found all over the world, isn't it? Well, commonly people think it came from the East,
Starting point is 00:24:16 like, you know, Indochina, yeah, and Hinduism, but it seems to have come from here, but I don't know if they did come about independently. It's quite a specific shape. Yeah, and I think what they're saying about this one is it's the earliest examples of consistent usage, and so other places they're quite sporadic and maybe just falling through the... I kind of think it is a thing that is quite a natural thing. Like if I'm just kind of sitting here sort of scribbling on a piece of paper, sometimes I look down and I've drawn a
Starting point is 00:24:42 squastic. It's really worrying when you say that, James. And I just think it's because it's like a geometric figure. It's just like a few crosses and whatever. And you're like, oh, I'm going to cross that out. Do write in anyone if you have the same thing as James. I can't say I find myself subconsciously drawing squasticas.
Starting point is 00:25:01 Well, it's a sour sticker as well, isn't it? That's a back to front one, is it? That's what James always tells people. Don't worry. There's an interesting guy. Did you come across Sir John Lubbock in your? No. So he was the guy who coined the word neolithic
Starting point is 00:25:16 and paleolithic, actually. Extraordinary guy. I'd never heard of him before. Amazing scientist. And when he was about 12 12 his father came home and said I've got some very good news Johnny, very very good news and he thought oh I'm getting a new pony but it was actually the idea that Charles Darwin was going to come and live in the next village so they became very close friends and
Starting point is 00:25:40 Lubbock was the guy who persuaded the Dean of Westminster that Darwin should be buried in Westminster Abbey. Really? And was one of his pool bearers. I thought that was rather charming. Really? That's very interesting because in a weird mirroring of that, a couple of generations later, the person who came up with the term Neolithic Revolution, as in Australian, called Veer Gordon Child, and he was very good friends with another Charles Darwin, the grandson of Charles Darwin.
Starting point is 00:26:07 Oh really? And they both heavily influenced each other as well. And he was a very interesting child. He was a person who excavated Scarabray, which is an extraordinary Neolithic settlement. Oh, where they found the village. They found the village. Yes. That's kind of the oldest Neolithic village in the UK, right?
Starting point is 00:26:22 One of the Orkneys, isn't it? Yeah, it's in Orkney and it is. I have actually been there and it's an amazing place because it's so well preserved and it's about nine houses and they're a thousand years older than Stonehenge and they're all still furnished. It was all stone furniture because famously not really any trees on Orkney, so everything was stone.
Starting point is 00:26:42 And they have, as you're walking through the doorway, you've got a fire in the middle You've got a chest of drawers opposite and you got two beds on either side What were the chest of drawers made of I was gonna say that stone chest and drawers are pretty cool Yeah, yeah, I've used chests of drawers. It's a place where you put your stuff. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, you've done the estate agent It looks like a rock but it's's used correctly. Imagine this rock, it could be your office, it could be an exercise room. And they also all had limpets soaking tanks. That's the other crew. It could be an exercise room, it could be a limpets soaking tank.
Starting point is 00:27:23 Whatever you're into. What do you, I mean, obviously the answer is to soak your limpets. But what is a limpid soaking tank for? Apparently, as you've correctly assumed, it is for limpid soaking. And the reason they limpid soaked was not, as you might think, because they ate limpets. We believe they used limpets as bait.
Starting point is 00:27:42 And if it soaked them, they would soften a bit and be better bait. And then they'd tracked other things. There's another theory, by the way, just jumping back to these, the burnt house horizon, as it's been coined. Oh, the Trinitum ones. Yeah, exactly. There are many theories as to why they were burnt.
Starting point is 00:27:58 We've already mentioned a few. One other theory is that. I can just hear sometimes when Dan is coming up with a time traveler-y, alien-y, what's it going to be today? It's not any of that. Go on. So there's a theory that Bigfoot would... What it is is that it's thought that if someone died
Starting point is 00:28:18 in the house, then the house has gone from a house of the living to the house of the dead. And so you burn it down to respect the dead. I mean, there's so many. No, that's a rational theory, actually. I take it back, Dan. No Bigfoot involved. Talking of spooky mysteries, shouldn't we talk about Stonehenge a bit?
Starting point is 00:28:32 Because that is really one of the big mysteries. And that that's sort of late Neolithic, isn't it? What's it about between 3100 and 1600 BC? Yeah, it was. One hundred years. It took them to finish. It was late Neolithic for the world, but we were actually quite slow to farm in Britain, weren't we? Yeah. So, 1500 years it took them to finish it? I think it was late Neolithic for the world, but we were actually quite slow to farm in Britain weren't we? Yes.
Starting point is 00:28:49 So, yes, we were, everything took, you know, it took thousands of years to reach farming for them at least. Well, you know, it's just like a European thing, isn't it? We don't really like to be there. Recently, they think almost certainly that Stonehenge was built by the Welsh. Did you know this? Really? They knew the stones came from Preseli Hills in Wales, but they assumed that the English
Starting point is 00:29:11 went there, collected the stones and brought them back in. But now they think the thing was actually built in Wales. Hang on, so built in Wales and then they did an Ikea style, took it down and shipped it over? Yes, exactly. Wow. I went to Stonehenge. Like, there was a thing where you could go, like, early in the morning before it opened
Starting point is 00:29:30 for the tourists. And we did that, and they do not like it if you touch the stones. Did you touch it? No. Oh. You could have done when I was a child. You definitely could. I know.
Starting point is 00:29:42 Well, you used to be able to, right? Like, you used to even be able to chip bits off them, I think we but um yeah. How do they feel when you scratch that swastika on here? I love that story, in 1915 a wealthy barrister called Sir Cecil Chubb he went to an auction in Salisbury intending to buy a pair of curtains at a knock-down price and ended up buying Stonehenge. and ended up buying Stonehenge. Yeah. Darling, don't be angry. This reminds me, John, of that time that you bought the life-size Barbie doll.
Starting point is 00:30:10 Yes, the Christmas tree Barbie for my daughters. Oh, my God, yes. It was a Save the Children auction. And I was directing ads at the time. We had plenty of spare money. And I bought this seven-foot-tall Barbie dressed as a Christmas tree for the girls. And Sarah came back from the loo. I just bought this seven foot tall Barbie dressed as a Christmas tree for the girls.
Starting point is 00:30:25 And Sarah came back from the loo, I just bought this thing. She was so angry she didn't speak to me for three months. You should have been like, it could have been worse, it could have been Stonehenge. Yeah, it could have been. Because similarly, Sir Cecil Chubb bought this and he came home so dulling, and he told his wife that he'd bought it as a birthday present for her Improvising, but she didn't want it. She said what the hell do I want those for? Where's my they're not gonna keep the light out? So that's how it got gave it to the nation in 1918. He gave out that's great
Starting point is 00:30:57 Now whatever happened to the curtains that exactly that's the question. Yeah Exactly, that's the question. Yeah. OK, it is time for fact number three, and that is my fact. My fact this week is that despite warning us that everything we say would be recorded, we have lost all the recordings of everything that George Orwell said. Ironic. Yeah. There's nothing on YouTube at all, no clips.
Starting point is 00:31:25 There's literally nothing. He was a BBC broadcaster. He was famous in his day, obviously, as a writer. Of course he was, yeah. He did multiple, multiple panels. He was always on broadcasts, so we should have his voice somewhere. This is thank God Alex Bell is not on this podcast, because he gets very upset about the BBC's cataloging system. You can understand it when you hear things like this.
Starting point is 00:31:46 Yeah, yeah, exactly. And actually, we have no video of him as well, except in 2003, some footage of him was unearthed of him when he was, I believe he was 18 years old. You see him at a school sort of like sports field, and he's the fourth kid in a line of kids who are holding arms linked up. And that's the only footage that we have of him before he was actually famous. So we don't have any footage. We got photos, obviously, and he was someone who was being monitored as well because he was saying a lot of contentious stuff. So you figure just something would have survived. Yeah. And it's such a shame it hasn't because I think his voice would have been hilarious. It sounds like it was. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:32:23 Really? Well, because he was super posh. And you know how when you watch old films, like Brief Encounter, about kind of not even that posh people and they all talk like that? You can barely understand them. And George Orwell at the time, even his posh friend said, this guy sounds incredibly posh. So I think he would have been virtually incomprehensible to us. Yeah, there's quite a few people who describe what his voice was like.
Starting point is 00:32:45 And something to take into account is the fact that when he was a soldier in the Spanish war, he was literally shot through the neck. Like a bullet went in one side and out the back. It somehow missed all the main arteries that would have killed him. He survived, but that affected his voice forever on in terms of volume. So he could never talk loud It was hugely exhausting He'd been dinner parties and he tried to say something and I was like what and he's just and he just couldn't get the volume
Starting point is 00:33:12 I think maybe we do have some recordings of him, but it's just very badly leveled. Yeah Exactly. I did not read somewhere that BBC researcher interviewing said he sounded like Alan Rickman. Alan Rickman, yeah, that's what they said. Really? Yeah. Wow. Because the thought is there is one bit of audio of him out there because it's this BBC researcher who found it in the archives but then kind of lost it. And one day we will get it.
Starting point is 00:33:36 These things do turn up. Yeah. Well, that's very exciting. In a way, this actually is a fitting fact because he actually said in 1984 that everything, every record is destroyed, right? It was like the end of history. He did actually. So this is like history has been wiped out. Winston Smith says everything had been destroyed or falsified. So now all we need is for an Alan Rickman to come along and like fake his voice and create that as the new three. Yeah. And then you've got his prediction. He also used to fake his voice, which is really interesting,
Starting point is 00:34:03 when he was living in various guises during his life. So one of his most famous books, Down and Out in Paris and London, so he decided he wanted to live as someone on the streets and sort of put himself into the real people's world. And he would put on, apparently, a sort of cockney accent that he would sort of... Yeah, well, you would think so, right? If he's talking like Jacob Rees-Mogg,
Starting point is 00:34:24 he's not going to, like, work out well in Paris with the criminals, is he? Yeah, that's true would think so, right? If he's talking like Jacob Rees-Mogg, he's not going to work out well in Paris with the criminals, is he? Yeah, that's true. That's true. I've got some ironic facts about 1984, because I love the core fact. Within 200 yards of the flat in Islington, where Orwell had the idea for 1984,
Starting point is 00:34:41 there are now 32 CCTV cameras. That's very good. And the most common book people lie about having read is Orwell's 1984. Why would they do that? Well James you used to lie a lot didn't you? In our live fish shows you had a thing about the top ten books that people lied about Tolstoy was on there. Yeah, but 1984 is the top one I've heard that before. Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. I was lying about you know, JK Rowling are they no one's lying But having read chamber of secret. Do you know what? I think it is I think it's quite easy to lie about because big brother as a concept is quite easy to understand room 101 is quite easy to understand
Starting point is 00:35:20 If people say have you read it you can kind of get away with it I think maybe you sort of think you have. Yeah, I think I know you can be arrested in Thailand for reading 1984. Really? Having picnics. Those are the two really serious things in Thailand. What was the second one? Sorry. Having picnics. Oh, gosh. I thought you said I slightly misheard. We should at family picnics. You could only be arrested for reading it if you're really at a picnic.. It's very rude and you should be interacting. It's interesting you said about where he got the idea was in Islington.
Starting point is 00:35:50 I think he's partly got the idea from his wife, Eileen, who'd already written and published a poem about 1984, 15 years earlier. Really? Yeah. Cool. About 1984, the year, like her predictions. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Now hers was a bit more optimistic.
Starting point is 00:36:06 It was about that the world was sort of sort itself out. And, you know, she thought the knowledge of the past can't be wiped out. So 1984 that he wrote was almost the opposite of what she wrote. Right. Her one was written in 1934, so it's exactly 50 years behind. And she wrote about what the future would be like. And she thought it would be great? Well, she's saying, yeah, kind of. You know, things might go downhill, things might be a bit bad,
Starting point is 00:36:30 but in the end, everything will work itself out. Really? Yeah, yeah. And he also based it on a Soviet book called Mui, which was written by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which is basically the same story. Is it? Kind of. It's like it's all about mass surveillance and stuff like that. And it was banned by the Soviet Union, but Orwell read it.
Starting point is 00:36:52 And he did say that his next book would be similar to this. We are not sure enough it was. So he kind of I wouldn't say plagiarized it because he put lots of his own ideas in. But I think like if you take his wife's poem about 1984 and this Soviet book and put them together, it wasn't a huge leap to come up with what he came up with. Yeah. I read 1984 when I was at school. So you claim. Yeah, yeah, Big Brother and the rooms, 101 rooms and something. But it absolutely altered my life. I do remember it being a game changer. And then the other book that changed my view of things, and it was part of the module we were doing at school,
Starting point is 00:37:28 was Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Yeah, definitely, me too. Those two were always paired together as these kind of dystopian books. So it was the most joyous thing to discover that Orwell studied under Huxley at school. Oh, yeah. Had eaten. He taught him French. Yes. I mean, that is just incredible. And Huxley wasn't an author yet. He wasn't well, he certainly wasn't published and famous
Starting point is 00:37:49 So these are just two guys who would go on to change the world Delight isn't it? Yeah, it's an echo of the impressionist really because not just that extraordinary coincidence, but all well was a contemporary at Eaton of Cyril Connolly, Anthony Powell and Ian Fleming. They were all contemporaries so it's like a sort of nexus like the fact that Renoir and Emile Zola and Baudelaire and you know people are all famous were just young people in Paris. Who would have thought he'd be turning out an ultra successful people? It was kind of help when you're all extremely rich posh white, white people. Although to be fair to all, well, yeah, it wasn't, you know, he's sort of got a scholarship
Starting point is 00:38:28 or something, didn't he? He did. His mother was, she had a really exotic name. She was called Ida Limousin. She was born in Penj. That's where I used to live. Yeah. Wow, cool.
Starting point is 00:38:40 Well, I was actually just saying that Penj is not a very exotic sounding place. It's not. And they tried to change that in Penj by calling it Ponj. They did. Genuinely. We live in Ponj. But to be fair, she was only on holiday in Ponj. She was actually grew up in Moore Lamine in Myanmar.
Starting point is 00:39:01 On 1984, the process of writing it sounds really horrible. Fun though it is to read. He was really sick, wasn't he? So he had terrible TB and he went to the island of Jura, very, very remote spot on the Scottish island of Jura to write 1984 after he'd been widowed. A person on the island had died very unexpectedly. And a very sad time. He'd taken the son he just adopted. I think they adopted a son about six months before she died. So he took the son, went to Jura. And it just sounds like agony. And he'd write that TB was gradually killing him as he forced out this awful book. But he's, again, he sounds a little bit like Monet so determined, and kind of gutsy. So he did things like once a bunch of cousins came to visit and he took them all on this
Starting point is 00:39:50 fishing trip and, you know, he's got a bad TB, the boat capsized, they really nearly drowned. I think he just managed to scramble him and his son to a rock and drag them out. So very nearly died, but made his TB a bit worse. But, yeah, it sounds like he's really living the awful life that they lived in 1984, at least suffering-wise. Yeah, because he had TB all his life, didn't he? He suffered it from all the time. Very sickly. But again, like Monet, incredibly determined, you know, going to the Spanish Civil War as a reporter
Starting point is 00:40:21 and then joining up on the socialist side. And then in the Second World War, he really tried to get into the army, but they wouldn't let him because of his TB. In fact, one friend said he tried harder to get into the army than most people tried to get out of it. And so instead he joined the Home Guard, famously, you know, because he thought that once Hitler had been defeated, it might be transformed into a Catalan-style revolutionary militia to overthrow the British ruling classes. Wow.
Starting point is 00:40:50 The Home Guard were going to have a coup. Considering he was so anti-fascist, he did have a Hitler mustache when he was young. Yes. But he was also only anti-communist. Did you know that? Yeah, he was. Because he hated the communists, having met the Russians in the Spanish Civil War, how cruel they were. He was a socialist but he didn't like the communists.
Starting point is 00:41:07 Yes that's right. What I always thought of 1984 was about how communism had gone wrong a bit, wasn't it? Yeah. I think anyway. Yeah but he kept a sort of McCarthyite list of people who were communists or fellow travelers which he then just before he died he gave it to the Foreign Office. That's right. Did he?
Starting point is 00:41:22 Yes that's right. He dobs. Sneaky, dove. It was kept secret for 54 years, and on that list are J.B. Priestley, Michael Redgrave, the actor, and Charlie Chaplin. Are we sure he didn't just not like these people? Maybe, yeah, maybe.
Starting point is 00:41:35 Yeah, he also is responsible for Wetherspoons. Yes, I read that. Oh yes, he wrote that. I've forgotten this essay on the perfect pub, didn't he? He wrote his essay on a perfect pub. And it's called Moon Under Water or something. Moon Under Water, yeah. There is a Wetherspoons that's called that, I think.
Starting point is 00:41:50 There's a lot, actually. There's a lot. He said that what... Yeah. Do you mean plunge? Sorry. He said that it should have a very convenient location. It should have a very good atmosphere
Starting point is 00:42:00 without any loud music so you can chat to each other. There should be fights every Saturday night. No, he didn't say that one. He said you should be able to get a variety of different beverages, including non-alcoholic ones. But then having said that, some of his friends said that whenever he went to the pub with them, he would only allow them to drink dark ale, no matter what they ordered. They would say, I'll have a gin and tonic. And then he'd come back from the bar with some dark ale and say well That's what you're having What are you what are you having? Yeah, what do you have in Roman? Yeah?
Starting point is 00:42:30 Yeah, I don't like George get it in 12 dark ales, please He did say this is what of him reminds me of you John which is no I'd say this is what of him reminds me of Yu Jong, which is... No. He... This was according to the ODMB. He believed that no meaningful idea was too difficult to be explained in simple terms to ordinary people, which is basically the QI style of writing, isn't it?
Starting point is 00:42:56 I exactly... I think that's very true. I think he's a very QI person, actually, because here's one. To see what is in front of one's nose requires constant struggle. That's very Q. I think there are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them. That's great. So, um, uh, John, I wonder if you have any insight into this, but, uh, Orwell historians have claimed that they believe room 101 was based off
Starting point is 00:43:23 his experience at the BBC and being in such torturous conference rooms and meetings. Really went to the Spanish Civil War, suffered from TB, the years of his life struggle, lived down in Paris and London, but working at the BBC. This is really interesting. Down and out in Studio One. There's a particular echo for this to me because I used to have the next door office, Douglas Adams, when we were both young radio producers. And we looked across at Broadcasting House,
Starting point is 00:43:50 but the back of it from 16 Langham Street. And there was a window in there that was all blacked out. And we thought that must be Room 101 in there. We fantasized about all this. And we were going to write a story about how the BBC had a coup in London. Because you remember how weird things were in the 70s the three-day week and the Labour government in power and everyone thought it was going to be a sort of counterrevolution I think James of a stretch might remember that if he remembers the first six months of his life
Starting point is 00:44:15 No, I didn't even do three days work in those days But wait, so what so it was we it felt like Big Brother was happening, Big Auntie. Yes, we thought there was going to be some sort of counter-revolution. Right. And the idea was the BBC was going to lead this from this secret room, and they're basically going to take down all the telephone lines and done it as a drama. They've got tanks in Trafalgar Square. It was all a completely faked coup where nothing had taken, but people thought it had, so they all stayed home.
Starting point is 00:44:45 Right. As it was, the blacked out window was just David Attenborough's dressing room. The spookiness goes on because about that age, I was 24 or something like that, I had a call from a very senior BBC executive. You had a strange voice like that, it was very high. And asked if I'd like to go to dinner. So I went to my head of department, just having come out of an English public school that a man 30 years old of me had asked me to dinner, I said, do you think this is alright? He said, we'll be very careful what you say.
Starting point is 00:45:13 That's the managing director's hitman. I thought, what? Because it is well known that everybody in BBC had a file on them, and if you were a communist at a Christmas tree in the corner. Oh yeah. If you were left here. So I went out for dinner with this bloke and I had too much to drink before I was terribly nervous that I was going to say something wrong and he would say do you like football? And I go not really. Do you enjoy opera? And I'd say not really. Do you enjoy it? So it was a very uncomfortable dinner. And I went home and nothing happened.
Starting point is 00:45:48 And years later, I was told the guy had started Channel 4 and I told him this story. He said, oh, you were definitely being recruited for MI5. And he blew it. If only you said you supported Wolves, avidly, that was the key. So I was actually being recruited for the Secret Service and I didn't realise it.
Starting point is 00:46:03 Wow! But Placado wouldn't have existed if you had been. So, you know, what's better? That you ended the Cold War ten years early or...? If you had been recruited, you wouldn't tell us. You might tell us the story and then it might end with, and then I was never recruited. Mm-hm.
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Starting point is 00:47:59 Okay, it is time for our final fact of the show and that is James Okay My fact this week is that in 14th century London one punishment for selling unclean spices was to be put in the pillory and have the spices set on fire beneath your nose. What would that do like do we know how? Because it sounds like it could be quite nice is it like one of those scented sticks you get in your house sometimes that releases a nice smell? No no have you ever seen on the internet when they do like the nutmeg challenge? You know the cinnamon challenge or whatever it is and they try and eat one spoonful of spices and it all goes terribly wrong
Starting point is 00:48:33 Yeah, I reckon it's that times a thousand. Yeah, you're just gonna get it in your sinuses and your eyes It would burn like a thousand like mad. Yeah your face. Yeah, it'd be awful So I read this when I was trying to nail something about eating fish on a Friday for QI this year. I reckon that people in the UK eat fish on a Friday for economic reasons, not for religious reasons. I can't work out if that's true. So if you know this, if you're a historian, you know this, get in touch with me.
Starting point is 00:49:00 But while I was doing that research, I found a paper called Butchering in Medieval London by Ernest L Sabine. And I read that and he gave loads of good info about the food trade in the 14th century. And in 1393, when John Hadley was the mayor, he was a grocer, he came up with this new law. You said when John Hadley was mayor, like, do you remember when John Hadley was mayor in 1393? You must remember that.
Starting point is 00:49:22 The John Hadley era, of course. Hadley years. Sorry, of course. Hadley years. Sorry, go on. So he was a grocer, as we all know, and obviously had lots of ideas about the grossing trade. I mean, I'm telling a lot of people what they already know here, but I'm going to go through the basics. He came up with a law about adulterated spices and said that basically you should be not
Starting point is 00:49:42 selling spice which isn't pure and there was one particular guy a foreign merchant who had come over to London and was selling dodgy spices and he was sent to the pillory and had his false powders burned underneath him. Wow. And that pillory by the way is where you put your head in. It's like stocks. It's like stocks yeah people might throw tomatoes at you but in this case he was he was being burned Yeah, the stocks are different because the stocks are just your feet Yes, they're better because you can dodge the missiles because you can move the your upper body. Yes Yeah, you're doomed of the plan hadley as well He prescribed that all spices must henceforth be garbled by an official garbler
Starting point is 00:50:25 So garbler. Oh, Zaffron, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo,
Starting point is 00:50:33 woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, of like little ant legs and little bits of flies and stuff in there, you sift through it and you just get the good stuff and that's garbling and it comes from an old Anglo-Norman word garbale meaning to sift and the garbling that you were doing Anna comes from an old thing where you would get a text and you would take out all of the bits that you don't want to say and you would just include the bits that you do want to say. So let's say you took something from the Bible, you might say, well, actually, I quite like the adultery part. So I'm not going to mention that, but I will mention the stuff about not coveting my neighbor's ox. And that was known as gobbling because you were sifting through the words. And then it eventually became like gobbling your voice and gobbling. So it's almost become the opposite because now gobbling is more like including extraneous stuff. It's certainly not the direct kind of communication. Exactly.
Starting point is 00:51:29 Weird. This seems to be a bit of a theme, this means of punishment for adulterating spices. I actually read that in 1444 in Nuremberg an adulterator of saffron was burned at the stake over a fire of his own saffron. Yeah. Wow. It's been an incredibly expensive fire. Yeah. Yes. And... It's the most expensive spice saffron, I think, isn't it? Yeah.
Starting point is 00:51:50 It is, because you can only get it a tiny bit from each saffron flower, can't you? So you have to get like 200,000 saffron flowers. And then you can't taste it anyway, guys. Yeah, might as well just use turmeric, guys. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. This was the saffron shell code, wasn't it, in Nuremberg about saffron.
Starting point is 00:52:08 Sounds like it. Yeah. And you could be hung, drawn, and quartered for selling dodgy saffron. Really? They were really hard on saffron, I guess, because it is so pricey. Yeah, but if you were a woman, you wouldn't be hung, drawn, and quartered because it was seen as bad to to hang, draw and quarter women, because you might be able to see their belly as you're pulling out the innards.
Starting point is 00:52:31 Maybe someone might get turned down by that. I don't know. Really? You weren't allowed to show a woman's stomach. So you couldn't hang, draw and quarter someone. And so they would be buried alive instead. It had a special kind of pillory for women. Did you know that? No. Thew, T-H-E-W-E, which is for women. Did you know that no few? T-hewe which is a stock
Starting point is 00:52:52 It was so the stocks that kept the legs together There's a company called spices pill Nantwich, Cheshire. Yeah, I just couldn't believe that. It must be an old place. It's now just called Spices, but it's in 38 Pillery Street, Nantwich. Really? That's so funny. And so I was just checking this out on Wikipedia, and it says on the pillory entry that people who were put in pillories were called pillocks.
Starting point is 00:53:23 Citation needed Wikipedia, I think. It does say citation needed. That's never gonna last. I think Pillar comes from bollock basically doesn't it? Yeah. I think. Yeah. So do you think that people with the spices burning under the nose were also pelted with fruit and things? Oh I would think so yeah. Yeah. Because one of the things I liked about the pillory was that it was kind of quite a democratic thing so the crowd decided what they threw so if if it was a minor offense you get soft fruit or whatever and if they really didn't like if you've done something horrible they throw stones and saucepans and people were actually killed in the pillory dead dogs and dead
Starting point is 00:54:02 dogs yeah really there was one guy who in 1727 was convicted of attempted sodomy, he's called Charles Hitchin, and he went into the stocks wearing a suit of armour because he was so worried that people would throw heavy hard things at him. That's amazing and did you read about Daniel Defoe, the guy who wrote Robinson Crusoe? He did a satirical pamphlet, which somebody took literally, and he was put in the pillory for seditious libel, which is a really serious political offense. And the crowd all turned up, and they thought he was absolutely great, so they just threw flowers at him.
Starting point is 00:54:35 Oh, nice. Yeah, that's very cool. It's really interesting. This is a punishment that fits the crime, I suppose, which quite often happened in in the olden days so in 1482 in B-brick which I think was a village in Germany there was a Wintner who'd adulterated his wine with something else and he was condemned to drink six quarts of it of his own wine which is six liters that is a lot. It's a lot.
Starting point is 00:55:05 Well, the article about it, which was written in 1952, just said, from this, he died. Oh. Oh, wow. Oh, nice. What a way to go. Yeah. That's so interesting.
Starting point is 00:55:17 People think, you know, you sort of think, oh, that's the sort of thing they did in the Middle Ages. They cheated by making, instead of saffron, they did turmeric. But it still goes on today, adulteration of spices. Mm, massively. And I'm just reading in Tata, the big Indian multinational, the insurance branch has a thing on that of typical adulteration of spices in India, such as you put sand or powdered
Starting point is 00:55:39 chalk in sugar, brick powder is added to red chilli powder, papaya seeds to black pepper, chicory to coffee, sawdust to ground cumin seeds and used tea leaves to tea, so that's how they do it. And in the... I like that one. They also put mud, stones, pebbles, marbles and filth, apparently, in some spices. Marbles are never going to fit through those tiny pebbles. The rules from the US Food and Drug Administration on filth in adulterated spices are really specific.
Starting point is 00:56:11 So, for example, the maximum amount of filth permitted by the FDA in 50 grams of ground paprika is 150 insect fragments and 22 rodent hairs. In all spices, 300 insect fragments and 10 rodent hairs. In all spices, 300 insect fragments and 10 rodent hairs. Somebody checks all these. And in cinnamon, it's 400 insect fragments and 11 rodent hairs. What you really want to get into if you're a food adulterer is canned or frozen spinach,
Starting point is 00:56:39 because they're much more generous with their limits there. So for every 100 grams of canned or frozen spinach, you were allowed 50 aphids and or thrips and or mites per 100 grams or two or more three millimeter or longer larvae or larval fragments or spinach worms whose aggregate length exceeds 12 milliliters per 24 pounds. That's how much how much you get a lot of mites and thrips in there. Spinach is very light though, isn't it? Yeah. Like how many kilos of spinach was it?
Starting point is 00:57:10 That was a hundred grams. A hundred, oh yeah, okay. That's not that much. Yeah, it's quite a lot of ant. The most adulterated spice slash herb in the EU according to a 2022 report is oregano or oregano. It's the most adulterated. Yeah, it is 48% of samples that were checked were contaminated with sage.
Starting point is 00:57:37 I think you'd be able to taste that. Do you think if someone puts sage? Marijuana. Grass. No, it is olive leaves. So they just basically add olive leaves to the oregano leaves and then mush it up. I mean, if you're not noticing sod it, you know, who can even taste herbs and spices anyway?
Starting point is 00:57:57 They're just for show, aren't they? Like there was this huge thing. They're just to make your covers look fancy. Just get some ketchup and mayonnaise and stop being such a snob. No, there was this just, I'm just saying this because there was a big sting in 2021 of a criminal gang in Spain. Oh, I thought that was something they found in some spinach. How much of a bee is there, Sting? Just the sting, it's fine. It adds spice as it goes down.
Starting point is 00:58:27 This was 2021, there was a criminal gang in Spain that was done for making fake saffron. So Spanish saffron is the incredibly expensive sort after saffron. And there were 17 people arrested and it was found that a huge proportion of it was actually fake. So it was mixed up with other stuff. Yeah. But mostly mixed up with Iranian saffron, which had been imported. Feels OK.
Starting point is 00:58:49 And which we think does taste the same. I'd be amazed if people could tell the difference. So there was one Parisian chef who said that making sure you've got legitimate saffron is as time consuming as checking all the other produce in your food combined. And I would say, don't worry about it. No, I don't think I'm going to go to a restaurant and go, this is Iranian saffron.
Starting point is 00:59:12 Wow, that's amazing. Bread is one that was adulterated a lot in history, wasn't there? And you could be really badly punished for being a baker. And yeah, Penis bakers doesn't, I guess. Yes. So the idea you make a 13th bun,
Starting point is 00:59:24 so that the weight of your 12 buns is... Is actually... So it was like a, yeah, for non-English speakers, exactly, you make a 13th bun and that's what bakers doesn't is as opposed to 12, because you're in so much trouble if you'd made 12 buns, but they were just a little bit light. It's like, to be safe, chuck another one.
Starting point is 00:59:40 But it's a serious matter, because bread is what people live on, and you can't cheat on that. Whereas in 2017, I think it was, they censored a Massachusetts bakery for listing love as an ingredient of their granola. They said made with love and they took them to court. I think that's fair enough. Me too, I hope they got life sentences.
Starting point is 01:00:02 Chuck a dog at them. So just on baking as well, in the 18th century in Turkey, if you undersold your bread, you would get in trouble and you might get hanged. And that was common enough that if you were a master baker, I said master baker, you might employ an assistant who got more wages, but they were the one who would take the fall if you got in trouble. Right. That's tense, isn't it?
Starting point is 01:00:31 Yeah, would you take that job? Is it worth the extra money? I'd be more concerned if I saw Master Baker list love as part of the ingredients. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay, that's it. That is all of our facts. Thank you so much for listening. If you'd like to get in contact with any of us about the things that we have said over the course
Starting point is 01:00:54 of this podcast, we can all be found on various social media accounts. I'm on Instagram with at Shriverland James. I'm on Instagram. No, it's James Harkin. John, I'm on Instagram. No such thing as James Harkin. John. I'm on Instagram. John Lloyd, QI. That's right. And Anna? You can get in touch with the podcast as a whole by emailing podcast at or tweeting at no such thing. Yep, that's right. Or you can go to our website, no such thing as a
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