A neighbour had left one of these at her front gate with a notice offering it free of charge to passers-by.

I used to be a courgette,
Quite small and sleekly narrow;
But ’cos I wasn’t picked in time,
I’ve grown into a marrow.

My waistline has increased
As you’ll have surely noted –
Obese, in courgette terms, I s’pose –
So now I feel quite bloated.

Please take me home, there is no charge.
Then cut me into twain,
And stuff and cook me. Then I’ll know
My life was not in vain.

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Edie Acaran

Humans used to think they were what evolution, and the Universe itself, had been aiming at all along. Some still do. It seems that a certain Ediacaran fossil from the late Precambrian (around 550 million years ago) had much the same view of herself . . .

They call me Edie Acaran. Evolution stops with me.
I am the very pinnacle of the evolutionary tree.
Not like my ancient forebears: they thought they were cool cats,
But the best that they came up with were mere microbial mats –
Bacteria just divide their cells, but that is so passé.
But fortunately my ancestors evolved a better way:
I reproduce by stolons. It’s the only way, you know,
To move around the sea-bed on the sediments below.

I have a frond and holdfast, and a stalk to join the two:
A multicellular marvel, the newest of the new!
My holdfast brings me minerals* from the rock it’s stuck me to;
And my frond has so much surface that nutrients permeate through*.
My Universe is water. There’s nothing else, it’s clear.
Whichever way I turn my frond, it’s water, far and near.
Yes, evolution stops here. I am perfect, top to toe.
My body plan’s so complex, there’s nowhere else to go . . .

* Possibly . . .

[Image of Charniodiscus on Australian stamp: Universal Postal Union]
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Agates are like people

That’s how Ian Graham, a local collector, described them, and he should know – he has a house full of them!

Agates are like people:
Each one is quite unique.
You’ll never find a pair the same,
However long you seek.

As agates are bright-banded,
So people’s DNA
Shows banding in its profiles
As a colourful display.

Like people, too, their beauty
Lies deep within a skin
That might look rough, but hides a treat
For those who look within.

[Images: Wikipedia;]
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Life according to Marks

An email from Marks & Spencer on 4 May 2017 said: “Life’s short. Let’s spend it well. Life’s too short for hesitations.” I wanted to argue; but they were right on one point . . .

If life is so short, what’s the best way to spend it?
Has shopping in Marks got a lot to commend it?
Should we take up the company’s kind invitation
To buy all we want, without hesitation?

No. Life isn’t ‘short’. From the time you begin it,
For day after day, you can cram a lot in it.
To spend your last hours in an M&S store
Would be wasting your time, and a terrible bore.

“Don’t wait for a special occasion,” they say,
“To dress up or eat well.” Well, I do, in my way.
And “Life is a special occasion”? Well, yes!
You’re spot on with that one, I’d say, M&S!

[Image: Wikimedia]
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Hic, hic . . .

Next time you’re afflicted with hiccups, try this. It worked for me.

If hiccups afflicts you and you can’t endure it,
Here is a quick way – perhaps– that will cure it:
Just squeeze your thumb hard*. You really should try it:
Your hiccups, you’ll find, will soon go quite quiet!

Such distraction, you see, puts your brain in a spin:
“Give priority to pain” is a trait that’s built-in.
“Stop multi-tasking, make this pain go away,”
Says the brain – and stops hiccupping. Hic, hic . . . hooray!

* Across the width of the nail, for a minute or so.

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Give it time

The laws formulated by Newton and Einstein imply that things can’t happen all at once. The quantities called ‘mass’ and ‘inertia’ are measures of a thing’s resistance to having its state of rest, or motion, changed. Stuff take time to happen. But supposing it didn’t . . .


Stuff cannot change location
When going from A to E
Without a smooth transition
Through b and c and d.

And we perceive this process:
“Time’s passing,” we declare.
We’re used to something taking
Time to get to here from there.

But if stuff had no inertia
And could miss out bcd,
Than everything would happen

“That cannot be,” says Einstein,
“You’d need an infinite force!
And nothing can go faster
Than the speed of light, of course.”

And life needs time to happen,
Or we’d be born and die
Without the time to say:
“Well, Hello, world. Goodbye”.

It seems we must be patient.
The message of this rhyme
Is this: to live a life at all,
You have to give it time.

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Romantic for some, but not for the trees it grows on.

The other day, I saw a show of parasitic mistletoe.
It sucks the juices from the wood, which does not do it any good.
Birds eat its seeds1, which go right through and stick on to a branch in poo,
Or get spat out (just for the thrill), or maybe wiped off from their bill.

Christmas picking does no good: once mistletoe’s invaded wood,
Its hypocotyls2 get a grip and add haustoria3 at their tip.
The poor host plant is out of luck: those darned haustoria can suck
Its nutrients; and, as you know, they’ll help the mistletoe to grow.

To rid a plant of mistletoe, all affected wood must go.
Or, if you like, it would be fine to harvest it at Christmas-time
And sell it – you can charge a lot. Say, “This is good for you-know-what:
Just hold it up above her head and soon the pair of you’ll be wed!

1. Actually, drupes, because each has a ‘stone’ inside; the actual seed is inside the ‘stone’. But no-one uses ‘drupes’ in ordinary conversation.
2. The part of the stem of an embryo plant beneath the stalks of the seed leaves (cotyledons) and directly above the root.
3. A haustorium is a special organ of parasitic plants, which invades host tissues and serves as the structural and physiological bridge that allows the parasites to withdraw water and nutrients from the conductive systems of living host plants.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]
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