Greetings, folks;

Pierre the Frenchman was a brave and resourceful fighter-pilot who vowed that if ever he went down it would be in flames. Wartime imposes shortages on many things, and when his ladyfriend revealed that shaving equipment was among those things Pierre produced a box of matches and calmly dropped a lighted one into the formidable thicket. As the flames soared -

"Shit! What'd you do that for!"

"Ah-hah! When Pierre go down, he go down in flames!"

Several decades after World War II we inherited two canaries and seven budgerigars when a neighbour moved house. Illness, misadventure, and mystifying escapes steadily reduced these numbers to a single canary and three budgies. But the budgies treated the lone canary with shocking disrespect. With one wingtip gripped in a budgie beak it would be swung around like a lasso. Reduced to two toes on one foot and none on the other you could almost calculate the moment when canary would lose its grip on the perch of life.

Pierre and the canary both liked to buzz about the skies. And both were grim survivors. But they shared one thing that will eventually extinguish both their species. The Y-chromosome they carried, the essence of maleness, was taking damage that it could not repair. Through generations it struggled to maintain altitude, but its engines were sadly underpowered and the drag from its tattered airframe was pulling it ever lower. It avoided looking at the pilot, lest that glance should invite the final check of a parachute harness. Staring straight ahead it fought to keep its nose up and its wings level. But its grip on the perch was weakening.

It's a good thing that nobody ever taught that little bird the English language. Go anywhere near its cage and you'd be intercepted with a beakful of abuse that would have had a Collingwood supporter blushing, were it amenable to translation. Large jet-black ravens would peer disdainfully at that little yellow scrap of life, no doubt emboldened by the protection of the cage wiremesh. That canary shirt-fronting a raven would not have been a sight for the squeamish.

There came a morning when a rising sun cast only the silhouette of a bare perch. Fearful of what it might illuminate, the growing light crept down the wall and forwards across the floor. Then the straight edge of the receding darkness was broken by a tiny mound. A tiny yellow mound. Like a twisted propeller, a beak was buried in the sand. During the night a circuit had failed somewhere. Falling into oblivion, our canary made a final attempt to arrest the dive. It almost made it, but countless generations had taken too heavy a toll. The final fence, the last treeline, was too high. Our canary closed its wings, closed its eyes, and died.

Gentlemen, in a few billion years time the sun will engulf our Earth in a devastating fireball. But if the book 'Adams Curse' is prophetic then men shall have become extinct a long, long time before that occurs. Our Y-chromosome will have become redundant. Females of all species will have made the technical modifications that enable them to continue without us. But men should not deplore that. We are here for a good time, not a long time. Men, too, are a part of the Great Cycles.

That does not give men licence to act irresponsibly. But it does give us limited time in which to appreciate the female of the species, however we might relate to her. Gentlemen, would you charge your glasses, and ...

... Click here, for
Drink! Drink! Drink!
To eyes that are bright as stars when they're shining on me!
Drink! Drink! Drink!
To lips that are red and sweet as the fruit on the tree!

(Drinking Song, From "Student Prince")
Eric Carwardine