Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America

Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts...

Well, I'm back after a rather longer break for the holidays than I had expected. All caused by daring to stop at all and the resultant crisis in confidence; nothing to be alarmed at, really. And, to set the ball rolling, here's a little whimsy that has been occupying my thoughts for the last couple of months:

Pythagoras' Elephant

It was Euclid who nudged Pythagoras to wake him up. Down in the center of the amphitheater, the lecturer had ceased his interminable droning and was gathering his notes while the other mathematicians drifted towards the exits.

"Come on, Py old man, time to get some fresh air," said Euclid.

Pythagoras grunted and looked around. "Has the old fart finished at last?" he asked.

Archimedes answered from Pythagoras' side, "Yes, and I do wish you'd try to stay awake in these conferences, Py. If you'd begun to snore, the speaker would have taken it as a comment on his work."

"Hah, that would only be appropriate," said Pythagoras, "The fellow's mind-crushingly boring."

Euclid interrupted. "Never mind all that. It's time for a break and I don't want to waste it arguing about his theories. Let's go for a walk."

The three old friends rose then and walked out into the dry, hot air of an Alexandrian midday. The city was bustling with traffic and trade, the air filled with the shouts and hubbub of Egypt, and they headed for the outskirts where they were more likely to find the quiet and rest they sought.

It was not long before they came to a public park and were persuaded to enter by the cool promise of its trees and fountains. The din of the city faded behind them.

The park sloped upwards to a low hill at its center and, since all paths led to the summit, the friends soon found themselves atop this rise and gazing down upon the view that now spread before them. A traveling fair had encamped in the open field below and was offering all manner of entertainment to the gathered onlookers. In a clearing a race was being organized, a strange affair involving an elephant, a camel and a hippo. Criers shouted for volunteers to ride the exotic animals and, even as the mathematicians watched, three reluctant riders were pushed forward by the crowd.

Euclid turned away, preferring the tranquility of the park to this unusual sight, but Pythagoras grabbed his arm. "A moment, Euclid. I fancy a wager on this odd race. Which d'you think will win?"

Euclid glanced back. "Oh, the camel is bound to. It's the only one suitable for racing at all. In fact, if you disagree, a drachma says it's the clear winner."

"Ah, but there you may be mistaken," replied Pythagoras, "the elephant is deceptively swift because of its size. It appears to be slow but its huge strides carry it along pretty quickly, I think. My money on old jumbo."

Archimedes shook his head. "Well, that leaves me the hippo," he said. "And I'll take the bet, even though it seems I have the most unlikely candidate."

And so the three friends sat down to watch. The riders mounted and immediately the race began. To the watchers' surprise, the hippo set off at a tremendous pace, easily gaining a big lead in the first hundred yards. The camel showed little interest and merely trotted along, while the elephant considered it far too warm an afternoon to do more than a somnolent amble.

The riders and crowd now set up a cacophany of shouts and screams, urging the animals to greater endeavors, and at last the camel seemed to get the idea, for it started to accelerate and gained on the hippo. Only the elephant took no notice at all, just plodding along in utter disdain for the whole affair.

Such a rising crescendo of sound must have frightened the hippo for it now began to run all over the field, scattering the crowd and allowing the camel to take the lead. Noting the growing chaos, the elephant expressed his displeasure by raising his trunk and releasing a great trumpet of sound that shook the ground beneath the onlookers' feet. This seemed to confuse the camel for it began to run in circles, ignoring the frantic cries of its rider.

And so the race was run, the elephant crossing the line with haughty superiority, the camel brought under control by its rider at last, and the hippo corralled by the braver members of the audience. A great cheer went up for the riders as they dismounted.

But how differently did the riders achieve their dismount. The elephant pilot slid effortlessly to the ground and then raised his arms in triumph. The camel driver landed with a thump on the ground and walked unsteadily away. But the hippo rider fell sideways rather than dismounted and then could not raise himself from the dirt where he landed. He thrashed about feebly, begging for assistance, and, when the crowd had pulled him to his feet, he could not stand without support. His face was ashen and his eyes still wide in terror.

Up on the hill, Pythagoras turned to his friends. "I think I am richer by two drachmas," he pronounced. "But I would bring your attention to the condition of those fellows down there, for they prove a favorite theorem of mine."

His friends chimed in together. "They do?"

"Oh, yes," said Pythagoras, a great grin on his face and a glint in his eye. "It is quite clearly demonstrated that The scare on the hippopotamus is equal to the sum of the scares on the other two rides!"


That's it I'm removing your posting rights....
I was expecting something really deep and then pfffffffft.
Date Added: 12/01/2006

Ha ha, that's a variation I've not heard, though there are different versions around, mostly by Frank Muir, I think. Good to see you back, Clive. I thought you had disappeared into the bloggers' black hole. If I ever get bloggers' block I find putting up a series of short posts usually does the trick. I look forward to more gems of wit and wisom from the incomparable quill of Gone Away Still Here (Just).
Date Added: 12/01/2006

Gone Away
Hah, fooled ya, Mad! :D
Date Added: 12/01/2006

Gone Away
Thanks, John, good to be back. I think the short post remedy may work for, during my drought, I started several posts but did not finish them, deciding about halfway through that they were not worth posting. Perhaps I would be able to finish short ones before the doubt creeps in... ;)
Date Added: 12/01/2006

Haha...cute! Glad to see you're posting again.
Date Added: 12/01/2006

Cute twist! Welcome back!
Date Added: 13/01/2006

Being new to the blogging arena, I wasn't sure what to expect. Seems there are as many different kinds of blogs as there are bloggers. But this one blew me away! Great story, it has everything... great reading, great 'riting and surprisingly logical 'rithmetic. Will be adding you to my reading list.
Date Added: 13/01/2006

Gone Away
Thanks, Queen. Gone is no longer gone, it seems. ;)
Date Added: 13/01/2006

Gone Away
Thanks, Marti, it's good to be back. And I must apologize that I haven't got back to you yet after all your messages - I will visit, I promise. :)
Date Added: 13/01/2006

Gone Away
Thank you, Rollo, and may I say what a great blog you have there - bound to be a success! :)
Date Added: 13/01/2006

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