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Sunday, 11 May 2014

Fat bottomed girls

Stanley steam car in Riverside Museum (photo Dug Blane)
"You know you've had two beers, so you can't drive home?" Al says half an hour later, with the sun still shining on his garden and his daft dog shut in the house for a while, so the humans can discuss space travel and the Sorites paradox, without getting their legs humped.

"Course I won't," I say. "You got me for the night. But when I was young, people would regularly drive with several beers inside them." 

"When you were young the speed limit was four miles an hour," he says. "And a man with a red flag had to walk in front of you."

"Two miles an hour in towns," I tell him. "And I wasn't born till years after 1865, when that law was passed."

"That can't be right," he says. "Benz didn't patent his motorwagen, driven by an internal combustion engine, until 1886. So there weren't any cars in the 1860s."

"There were," I say. "But they were driven by external combustion - the steam engine. The Red Flag Laws kept them pretty much off the roads in this country for 30 years. It was even worse in some of the States. 

"Pennsylvania passed a bill saying motorists meeting cattle had to stop and disassemble their vehicle, then 'conceal the various components out of sight behind nearby bushes', until the cows calmed down. I'm not making this up."

The sound of a prop-driven plane passing overhead, bound for Glasgow Airport, draws our eyes upward. "You ever get blue ice falling in your garden, since you're so close to the flight path?" I say.

"Giant flying frozen turds in Bearsden?" he says. "The residents would never allow it. There'd be an international incident. You want to know why I never use a plane or even drive a car nowadays?"

"Oh god, global warming," I say.

"Never mind oh god global warming," he says. "It's the most serious threat to the world since the atom bomb."

"I know," I say. "You keep telling me. So we should cover hillsides with huge turbines that only work with 10.65 mile-an-hour winds from the south-west?"

"Nah, wind turbines make no engineering or economic sense," he says. "I've done the sums. They're a commercial con-trick. Bikes are different. Cars and planes are killing the planet."

"So you riding your bike is going to save the world," I say. 

"Didn't you tell me once that the basis of all rational ethics is Kant's categorical imperative?" he says. "Behave in such a way that if everyone did it, the world would be a better place."

"True enough," I say. "But why bikes? Cyclists are selfish louts and bikes give you scrotal abnormalities."

"Only if you put them between your legs," he says.

"There must be something better than a bike," I say. 

"There isn't," he says. "A man on a bike is the most efficient creature on Earth."

"What about a woman on a bike?" I say.

"You're not going to distract me with thoughts of women on bikes," he says. 

"I think I am," I say. "You remember that Queen song and the video that went with it?" 

"Shut up," he says, lifting his pint of chilled lager and pressing it against his forehead. "Cycling uses the least energy of any form of transport, including walking. A hundred calories will take a cyclist three miles, but move a car just a few hundred feet. And the more cyclists on the roads the safer they seem to be for everyone."

"You're forgetting an important scientific fact," I say. 

"What's that?" he says. 

"Cattle are reckoned to cause more global warming than all forms of transport combined. We need to stop the carnivores and their farting cows, not just the cars."

"That's fine by me," he says, lifting his glass and clinking it against mine. "What do we want?

"Cycling vegetarians!"

"When do we want them?"


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