“Lump of whale vomit sold at auction in U.K..” reads a headline on the BBC news website.
I asked an ex-pat friend in England about this seemingly odd transaction.
“Not surprising, i assure you,” he writes from the garden of his country home near Maidstone, Kent. “Like all my neighbors, i myself have several fine lumps of whale vomit on my mantelpiece. My wife wears one on a chain.”
This suggests to me the existence of a lively trade in whale vomit amongst our cousins across the pond. How, I wonder, do the whale-vomit shops and auction houses verify the authenticity of the specimens? Might the winning bidder at the recent auction have actually bought, say, a lump from a round of gorgonzola that went down with the Andrea Doria? Is there an odor test? Must there have been witnesses to the actual act of whale puking? It’s rare enough for a landlubber like me to have seen a whale breaching, let alone to have observed one voiding its plankton.
I first supposed that the election of the likes of Maggie Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron might account for this odd British interest in whale vomit. The Establishment’s reaction to Labour’s election of Jeremy Corbyn to head the party does suggest some form of animal waste, but nothing quite as exotic as whale vomit.
And if whale vomit collecting reflects a society’s political discourse, one would expect that United States voters would be imitating their British cousins, perhaps embracing specimens from more typically American animals. Bear scat? Mule turds? Turkey poop? (Benjamin Franklin, remember, much preferred the turkey to the eagle as an American symbol.)
If what spews from the craw of, say, David Cameron, stimulates whale vomit-collecting, then the bile from the mouths of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio et al ought to trigger at least an outbreak of road-kill collecting. Bovine excrement has also been suggested, of course, but it somehow lacks the panache of whale vomit.
Now that they’ve brought down John Boehner, what sort of mantelpiece trophies might the Tea Party crowd like to collect to rival the U.K. Tories’ taste for whale vomit?
Not many of the modest ranchers in, say, Rowan County, Ky., even have mantelpieces. So what else might good, conservative Republicans do with their political keepsakes? Door stops? Knick-knack shelves? Garden ornaments?
’Tis a puzzlement.
Also, on further reflection, I realize that my friend in Kent is apolitical, certainly not Tory. The specimens on his mantelpiece are simply whale vomit, no more, no less. Read no political meaning into them.
But do keep an eye on what’s being auctioned these days in red states. You never know!