Perspective: Bearing up and going bananas

ONE of the common expressions I grew up with was, “You’re like a bear with a sore head.”

It is short and gets across exactly what the speaker means whether it be directed at a recalcitrant teenager or a grumpy husband.

That a bear quite often does have a sore head has always been self-evident to me, you can tell just by looking at them.

So it surprised me to read the other day that good money had been spent on research to “prove” that bears can be grisly when they come out of hibernation because it takes them around three weeks to wake up properly.

To sleep for up to six months, bears reduce their metabolism by about three-quarters to conserve energy. They come round from their long nap in good physical shape but are grumpy and sluggish, researchers at the University of Alaska found. I could have told them that if they had asked me.

Other scientists in the US have been studying monkeys and found that they can display self-doubt just like humans.

They discovered that a bunch of macaques trained to play computer games would “pass” rather than risk choosing the wrong answer in a brainteaser task.

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Macaques are classed as Old World monkeys. Interestingly, the same test was carried out on capuchins, which are New World, and they flunked it.

The learned doctor who led the research said knowingly: “There is a big theoretical question at stake here. Did (this type of cognition) develop only once in one of the primates – emerging only in the line of Old World primates leading to apes and humans?”

He added: “These results could help explain why self-awareness is such an important part of our cognitive makeup and from whence it came.”

I don’t know about that – I’m just worried that I would fail if I took a test on computer games which I have never understood or been able to play. They’ve certainly made a monkey out of me when I tried.

Still on the subject of our friends who cannot speak, I must admit to laughing when I read about the seagull who delayed a train by flying into the driver’s head as he was about to start his shift.

Commuters waiting at Tonbridge for the 0920 from Hastings to London Charing Cross guffawed when this announcement came over the loud speaker the other day: “We apologise for the delay to your service. This was due to the driver being attacked by a seagull.”

That reminded me of the time a number of years ago in a local newspaper office – not the Comet - where the scribes working there were known for constantly fooling around.

One of them whose desk faced the wall was in the middle of a conversation with a reader when he suddenly said, “I’m sorry, I have to hang up now, a banana has just bounced off my head.”

I can’t remember how he got back at the person who threw it but I’m sure the revenge was sweet.

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