03 August 2006

One for early morning...a genuine world's leading...

As regular British readers will 'get', the title of our little blog is meant to be ironic...highlighting the fact that most organisations and people that claim to be the world's leading very infrequently are. Regular American readers, of course, think that we're just the world's leading blog.

But yesterday's Independent found a genuine world leader, and it's one of my favourites ever. Dr Denis Summers-Smith, it tells us, is the "world's leading expert on sparrows". And who can argue? Check this out:

"Dr Summers-Smith, a retired engineer from Guisborough, North Yorkshire, has been studying the house sparrow and its relatives for 58 years and has written four volumes on them. Now, at the age of 85, he has produced a fifth. This latest book, On Sparrows and Man, is a summing up, a distillation of a lifetime's accumulated sparrow knowledge, by a self-confessed sparrow obsessive, drawing on an enormous personal archive of sparrow facts and figures."

Sparrow facts like this:

"The start of a classical guitar recital being given by Konrad Ragossnig on 2 August 1979 in St Helen's Church, Brant Broughton, Lincolnshire, was delayed by the chirping of a cock sparrow. The rector pronounced a sentence of death, and had the bird shot so the concert could proceed uninterrupted. He met with widespread criticism."

And this:

"A sparrow has also been executed more recently for interfering with an attempt in the Netherlands to establish a world record in collapsing more than 4 million dominos in one grand "domino effect". The sparrow managed to collapse 23,000 of them before the organiser, the TV company Endemol, had it shot. It, too, was widely criticised, and subsequently fined."

And this:

"There are at least two known cases of sparrows setting houses on fire. In 1960 a sparrow took the end of a lit cigarette into its nest in the roof of a thatched cottage in Saxmundham, Suffolk, setting it ablaze; and in Toledo, Ohio, a two-storey building was set on fire in a similar way in 1966."

Simply wonderful stuff, and well worth a read. We salute you, Dr Summers-Smith, a proper world's leading.

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