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(Stranger than) Fiction Friday: an excerpt from John Maytham’s Rapid Fire

What is the origin of the word ‘bluetooth’? How do you have sex in space? Which UK football ground is surrounded by Bloemfontein and South Africa roads? When walking round Rondebosch Common, why is it wise not to go widdershins?

These are just a few of the questions put to the formidable John Maytham by 567 CapeTalk listeners to test his remarkable general knowledge in the ever popular Rapid Fire insert on the afternoon drive-time show. Now, join the veteran broadcaster on a tour of some of the oddest, arcane and most surprising questions – and be tickled by the weird and wonderful answers.

“John Maytham may be the most erudite and interesting person on air, and if you read this book, a little John Maytham will rub off on you.” Darrel Bristow-Bovey
John Maytham is 567 CapeTalk radio station’s afternoon drive-time host. He is a trained actor who made the switch to radio more than 20 years ago, when he joined the news team at Capital Radio 604. He joined CapeTalk as news editor and breakfast host when it was started in 1997, and was the first person to speak on the station.

The following extract was originally published on Aerodrome:

Are there animals that can live without water?

The North American kangaroo rat is most often cited in internet discussions of this topic. These rats do need water to survive, but they have evolved such that it is possible for them to go through their entire life cycle, between three and five years, without ever drinking water. They collect seeds during moist conditions, and live off the nutrition and moisture stored in those seeds.

Then there is an extraordinary water-wise amphibian, the Australian water-holding frog. It stores water in pockets of skin all over its body, but holds most of it in the bladder. It is able to store double its body weight in water, and can live for up to five years without needing to take a drink. Local Aboriginals, if they’re thirsty while out in the bush, will try to catch one of these frogs and squeeze the water directly from the frog’s bladder into their mouths.

Why are weddings rings traditionally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand in many Western cultures?

This is based on a traditional (but incorrect) belief that there is a vein that runs directly from that finger to the heart. It was called the vena amoris, the “vein of love”.

What is the link between the musical works of Handel and Bach, and the one-rand coin?

The words Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone the glory) appear on the one-rand coin. Those same words are also part of the dedication of many works by the likes of Bach and Handel.

Can a vegan eat a fig?

Hmmm, lots of nuance in the answer! It depends – on the fig and on the vegan. Some figs, like the Smyrna, are pollinated in such a way that the female wasp dies inside the fig. The body will be dissolved by acid activity, but strictly speaking, there will be animal matter inside the fig. Some very strict vegans might see that as reason to avoid the fruit. Forgive me for being technical, but some fig species are parthenocarpic, which means they develop fruit-like structures that don’t require pollination. (Don’t worry, I don’t understand it either.) All vegans can eat these varieties with a clear conscience.

Bananas, on the other hand, are a different story. If they come from a field that has been sprayed with a pesticide like chitosan, then very strict vegans will look the other way because shrimp and crab shells are on chitosan’s list of ingredients. Did someone mention slippery slopes?

The first British astronomer at the Cape, Fearon Fallows, is buried in the grounds of the South African Astronomical Observatory in a suburb of Cape Town. His grave has one very unusual feature. What is it?

The grave is twelve feet deep. Fallows knew he was dying and, fearing that his burial site would be disturbed by grave robbers, he asked to be buried twelve feet down. As the observatory is on rocky ground, the digging must have been very hard work!

Continue reading here!

Rapid Fire

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