Sandi Toksvig ventures overseas to find out about Allotment Annies, who keeps their brothers in a cage. With Bill Bailey, Colin Lane, Desiree Burch and Alan Davies.
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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Good evening and welcome to QI.
Tonight we are heading Overseas,
and helping me to oversee proceedings
are the Maharaja of Mirth, Bill Bailey.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The Sultana of Swing, Desiree Burch.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The Grand Vizier of Gags, Colin Lane.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
And on his "gap yahh", Alan Davies.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Right, let's OVERSEA their buzzers. Bill goes:
# Over the hills and far away... #
That's lovely. Desiree goes:
# It's a long way to Tipperary... #
# I come from a land down under... #
# Show me the way to go home
# I'm tired and I wanna go to bed... #
That's like the ultimate drunk song, isn't it, that?
-Now, which Australian icon is regularly smeared in olive oil?
-# Go home... #
-Oh, Alan was in.
And it's not a good look.
So, I need an Australian icon regularly smeared in olive oil.
Well, would it be an animal of some kind?
A beast, a thing?
-No, it's not an animal.
-Sydney Harbour Bridge is...
-OK, you're getting close.
-Yes, the Opera House is absolutely the right answer.
-Why did you say that?
-It's 200 metres
-from the Sydney Harbour bridge.
And you said that was close when he said...
So there was a Greek migrant who arrived in Sydney in 1964,
Steve Tsoukalas, and he loved the building immediately.
It was being built, he decided he wanted to work there.
He is still working there, he's the longest-serving employee,
and he was inspired by his own Greek heritage.
So he said, "Olive oil for the Greeks means a lot of things,
"the Greeks used olive oil in the Olympic Games to rub on the body.
"Olive oil protects from the sun."
And he decided that the building needed to be rubbed in olive oil.
The fact is, it doesn't protect it from the sun, at all,
but it stops the railings and the door frames
-and the windows from getting rusty.
He's still working there more than 50 years later.
And does it not deter people from clambering on it,
-I'd imagine, as well?
-Because you'd slide off because of the olive oil.
I love the design of it, I think the design of it is extraordinary.
Apparently the Danish architect, Jorn Utzon...
He got the idea when he was peeling an orange.
It's the segments of an orange, and then the 14 shells,
if you put them together, would make a perfect sphere.
What I love about it is his design was recovered from a reject pile.
It was a competition and he got £5,000 for winning the competition.
There are lots of different ways of cleaning buildings.
York Minster found covering the building in a paint made from olive oil
can also help to protect it from rain damage.
So one of the components of olive oil is an acid
that reacts with limestone surfaces,
and it creates a barrier and stops water getting into the stone.
So actually it is a wonderful thing, olive oil.
It's a panacea, for buildings.
I remember, we had this neighbour once, who hated squirrels,
and he painted all the trees with anti-climb paint.
And... Which was, obviously I don't know whether that's cruel or what,
-I don't know, but it was hilarious to watch.
-Quite funny, yeah.
The cat would chase the squirrel, and the squirrel would go,
"Hey, I'm out of here!"
There are other things you can do with...
I don't think I can say this - other things you can do with olive oil!
Cover opera houses.
-Well, in Turkey, oil wrestling is the national sport.
They have an annual world series, it's called the Kirkpinar.
40 Springs. It's the oldest
continuing sporting event in the world.
There are 13 weight categories, from Best Beginner,
all the way up to Chief Wrestler, and taking in Big Medium,
Small Medium Big and Small And Sweet.
Which I like.
You are allowed to put your hand down your opponent's trousers.
-Hmm, there you go.
-But it is explicitly against the rules
to grab your opponent's testicles or invade his rectum.
That was going to be the one, right there.
-You can, if you want, you can put a squirrel down there.
This looks like an instructional video of a pickpocket.
It's like, do's and don't's.
Do aim for the pocket.
The one on the right really looks compliant.
He's saying, "You can invade it if you like.
"I won't say a word!"
"It's not an invasion if I invite you in there."
Right, moving on, um...
What did the Romans think the Britons had ever done for them?
I'm going to give you a clue, it begins with O.
Orienteering. They just went in straight lines,
whereas we could go from point to point over all terrain.
-Via a youth hostel.
-They've got nothing to eat.
THEY ALL MUMBLE SLOWLY
When they came to Britain, they fell in love with our oysters.
The first century BC Roman historian, Sallust, he said,
"Poor Britons, there is some good in them after all.
"They have produced an oyster."
So, do you like oysters? I love oysters.
-Yeah, they're fantastic.
-I think they are just delicious.
-I'll tell you what is nice.
Innit, though? Fish paste on toast.
-Oh, it is, yeah.
-Can you still get that?
Yeah, you can get that.
And Salisbury Cathedral is covered in it.
It stops the pigeons from landing.
I just made that up, I don't know, it could be true, I don't know.
It sounds plausible.
They used to transport the oysters from here all the way
over the Alps in carts filled with snow and ice.
The wealthier Romans used to have salt water tanks in their gardens,
so they could keep them fresh for parties and that sort of thing.
Oysters aside, I have to say,
the Romans viewed the British as uncultured and backwards.
They mocked their abundance of tattoos and lack of clothing.
The second century historian, Herodian, he reported the reason
they didn't wear clothes was to show off their tattoos.
Oysters have been popular in this country for a long time.
There's a horrible story of William Thackeray.
He tried one the size of a dinner plate when he was in New York,
in 1852, and he described it,
"Like swallowing a live baby."
In the 19th century, London was plagued by a man called Dando,
the celebrated oyster glutton.
This man was constantly sent to prison for overeating oysters
and not paying the bill. And he became a sort of folk hero.
And every time he left prison,
he went back out and immediately started eating oysters again,
not paying for them, and then back in again.
There's a wonderful story about him leaving Brixton prison,
still in the prison garb, he eats 13 dozen oysters,
and washes it down with five bottles of ginger beer,
because he was, "troubled with wind in the stomach."
You'd think he'd eat a quieter food if he'd been thrown in jail.
It's all that slurping. Eat marshmallows.
He once ate 240 oysters in one sitting.
GASPING I know, that is really...
-Yes. So, anyway.
On the screen we have some anagrams of country names.
I want you to see how many you can work out.
And you've got just a few seconds.
Write them down, please.
-What are we working out, sorry?
-What countries these are anagrams of.
Well, I've got the first two.
After that I'm in trouble.
OK. Who got all four?
# Down under... #
-"I did." I did is wrong?
-Yes, it is wrong.
It's not possible to get all four, how many did you get?
Only the two.
-Colin, what did you think they were, darling?
-Ah, there you go.
Yeah, it would be Kazakhstan, except there is an extra E.
So the fourth one is not possible.
Here is the thing.
It's not good that you thought you'd got all four,
because what they now know is that you are more likely to act immorally
if you spend time abroad.
Yes, I just thought that I was right, but I wasn't.
So I didn't actually purposely lie.
No, no. So they did a study of this.
They got people to solve anagrams, and what they've discovered is,
that people who spend time abroad
are more likely to say that they've done something correctly.
48% of people who spent a year in a foreign country cheated on the test,
compared with 30% of the others.
The idea is that your moral compass loses some of its precision.
The further from your home country?
Yeah. So a fifth of people admitted to stealing while they've been in a foreign country.
So, what you're saying is that you go abroad,
you live abroad for a bit, and you sort of, kind of, almost have
a bit of licence to re-invent yourself a little bit,
-and become a different person...
-Be a bit naughty.
..who would do things you'd not normally do?
Yeah. So 20% of people admitted to urinating in public when abroad,
but wouldn't dream of doing it.
-Although, the first time I came over to Europe,
everyone was pissing everywhere.
Out along the streets, it was like, this is the way of the Europeans.
-Oh. Whereabouts in Britain were you at this point?
So, lots of people do that. 5% of people who did the survey,
drinking too much has led to a naked escapade in public,
but only when abroad.
I've never, have you had a naked escapade abroad?
I don't know why I'm looking at you, Bill.
Um, no, well, no. Well, all right, well...
Yeah, I have. Yeah.
I got locked out of a room once.
The thing I don't understand, Expedia, a travel company,
they did a survey in 2002, and the British were voted
the worst tourists in the world.
-Number one! In your face, Europe!
Well, because Europe,
your liquor laws make everything close at midnight,
and then you go to these places where you can drink until 4am.
You don't know how to pace or control yourselves.
-No, that's true.
-It's like, "Lads! Lads! Lads!" Everywhere.
And people are like, really, it's OK, you can...
There's more to drink tomorrow, stop for now.
Guess who's the best tourists in the world?
No, darling, it's not the Australians.
-Japanese, yeah, absolutely.
The most polite, quietest, cleanest, least likely to complain.
-And by the way, as far as alcohol is concerned, Australia,
we never touch the stuff.
They never touch your shitty lager, that's for sure.
Well, we...we don't touch it either,
that's why we sent it all over here.
My favourite story about people getting drunk abroad
happened in 2012, with two Welsh holiday-makers.
They drank a litre and a half of vodka, right?
So this is like two wine bottles, basically, of vodka.
-They were in Queensland and they woke up to find
they were sharing their apartment with a fairy penguin called Dirk
they had obtained by breaking into SeaWorld the night before.
They're the smallest species of penguin, about 13 inches high.
They had apparently also swum with the dolphins
and let off a fire extinguisher in the shark pool.
They then tried to care for the penguin by giving it a shower.
I feel like this is a plot to a Hollywood film,
like, they've had the best vacation they'll never remember.
No. Yes, you're absolutely right.
And then they tried to put it in a canal,
because they didn't know what to do with it.
-What a night.
-Top night out.
-Once you've put out a shark that's on fire...
But can you imagine waking up drunk and there's a penguin right there?
How did they find out it was called Dirk?
-I think SeaWorld said, "Where the hell is Dirk?"
-Dirk's always out with the Welsh lads.
Now, we all know who was overpaid, oversexed and over here.
But who was overpaid, undersexed and over there?
-Well, these are GIs we're talking about.
-OK, GIs. Yeah.
-But you're saying there was an equivalent?
-Oh, OK, undersexed.
Oh, all the women who were left behind waiting,
-although they weren't overpaid, were they?
-Well, it depends.
So, during the Second World War,
the wives of the American servicemen who'd been sent to fight abroad,
they got an allotment. It was known as an allotment,
and it was 50 a month for their husband's tour.
And if the husband died in battle, they got 10,000 life insurance.
Some of the women thought, "That's a marvellous idea."
So they married as many men as they could.
So they were bigamists.
They were known as Allotment Annies.
There's a fabulous story about one of them, Elvira Taylor,
she was 17 years old, and she had married two men,
and she was caught out by the most unbelievably unlucky coincidence.
There were two American sailors in a pub, this is not them,
this is just us showing two American sailors.
And they both showed a photograph of their wife...
..to the other, and it turns out she was in fact married to both of them,
as well as four other sailors.
Oh, hashtag role models.
In fact, the practice was considered so widespread that warnings against possible bigamists
were printed in every civil notice of every single marriage.
There was even a film, Allotment Wives, released about them.
Hundreds of women were convicted after the war
of having been Allotment Annies.
-I know, it's a great phrase, isn't it?
-It is, yeah.
Who am I talking about? A great beauty, pouty lips, long legs,
good posture, firm ears, and spits in your face when you annoy them?
-It is a camel, indeed.
Pouty lips, yes. There you are, look,
they have naturally pouty lips.
Every year the government of which country,
it's the only one in the world begins with O?
-Oman, runs a camel beauty contest.
So I've got the guidelines for a beautiful camel.
"Well-proportioned body and face."
-Essential. "A long gharib."
Anybody know what the gharib is?
Is it their neck thing?
It is the area between the hump and the neck, is the gharib.
-"Long body, firm ears, pouty lips.
"Broad cheeks, big whiskers, a long, straight neck,
"long straight legs and fur shimmer."
A shiny coat, I guess.
Yeah. And the most important thing is it's got to be large.
There are no hybrid breeds, no fur dying, colouring, tattooing,
that kind of thing. The natural look is what they want.
But there are other animal beauty contests,
and one of them is held here in the UK.
It's an annual tarantula beauty contest.
So we are going to have a look to see how beautiful tarantulas are.
Please welcome zoologist, Mark Amey.
Thank you, Mark. Now, here is the thing,
is that we don't in any way want to upset the tarantulas, obviously.
-Don't open the lid, don't open the lid. Don't open the lid.
So only one person is going to handle.
This is Rosie, the tarantula.
And Bill's volunteered, haven't you, Bill?
-Yes, I have.
-Ah, yes, ah, yeah.
-And what is this one?
-That's a Mexican redknee tarantula.
-And this one is a Chilean rose tarantula.
She is called Rosie, isn't she?
-OK. How dangerous are they?
I mean, some people are afraid of them.
Their venom is very mild.
-So it's equivalent to a...
-COLIN LAUGHS NERVOUSLY
-Venom is mild?
It's similar to bees' and wasps' stings.
So it's a neurotoxin, but it's a low-level neurotoxin.
-Oh, that's all right, then.
-But tell me about the...
a nettle sting that they can give off from their abdomen,
-is that right?
-Yeah, it's called urticating.
And those hairs are like little javelin spears
that go in an upward direction, and they're all barbed.
So when they hit something like eyes or skin, they stick in.
It comes from the Latin for nettle, so it feels like a nettle sting?
-Is that the sensation?
-And do they mind being handled?
No, this one's quite used to it and quite enjoys it.
Have you known Rosie from, I don't, from...?
I've had her for over 20 years, but that...
I don't know how long they'll live.
-She could live another 20 years?
-It's very sweet.
-But the boys,
the boys reach sexual maturity and then what?
-Then they're pretty doomed.
They stop feeding and their whole purpose in life
is to try and find females.
-And then they'll usually die of starvation.
If not, the last female that they mate with generally kills him.
Well, I think they're both super. Thank you so much, Mark,
for bringing them in and thank you to Rosie.
Thank you very much.
Now, why would you keep your brother in a cage?
If he was a bit like my brother,
who used to like to pin me down and dribble into my mouth...
-It's a funny relationship with brothers, isn't it?
So, my brother and I, we used to play this game at night.
We'd turn out the lights and roll up a pair of socks
and throw them, and if you hit each other, then you got a point.
And I always won. And that is because
he had a luminous dial on his watch.
And I never told him, right,
until his 50th birthday.
And he's still cross about it!
I had a big brother who used to bully me,
and I had a little brother as well.
And he was one day in the bathroom, and he was nude,
came out of the bathroom and just went, "I am a robot, I am a robot."
We thought that was pretty funny. And then he turned around
and he had a battery sticking out of his bum.
Actually, we're going right back to Ottoman times.
So, as the Ottoman Empire expanded,
it was decreed that when a Sultan ascended to the throne,
he should kill all his brothers, to prevent sibling rivalry and that kind of thing.
And then this guy pitched up, Sultan Ahmed I.
1603, and he said, "I don't want to kill my brothers,"
he's a nice guy, so he made this very special pavilion
and it was called The Cage. And they were cut off from the world,
all his brothers, they were accompanied by eunuchs,
and concubines past child-bearing age,
so they couldn't have any progeny to mess up with the thing.
And they spent all their time doing macrame.
Ah, how lovely.
-In the shape of a noose.
Yeah. And then if a Sultan died without a son,
one of the brothers would be taken from the cage and made Sultan.
Right, so is this a way of protecting the line, the lineage?
-It is exactly that.
But the one who came from the cage,
that wasn't just whoever's the oldest, there was terrible fighting.
1622, Sultan Osman II died by,
"compression of the testicles at the hands of an assassin,
-"Pehlivan the Oil Wrestler."
They had quite a lot of strange rules.
One of my favourites, if a grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire was
sentenced to death, he could have the sentence commuted to banishment
if he beat the head gardener, who was also the chief executioner,
in a race around the royal palace.
So the Vizier would be summoned by the gardener,
and he would be handed a cup of sherbet.
If it was white, it was all fine, if it was red, it meant death.
And he had to run 300 yards from the palace to a place
called the Fish Market Gate,
and if he survived, then he could carry on living.
And this carried on quite well into the 19th century.
It's such an interesting period of history.
So 1517, they had one of their most famous victories
over the Mamluks of Egypt.
And it's largely down to the fact that
the Mamluks considered guns beneath their dignity.
-They refused to use them, and that's how they were...
Totally wiped out.
-Now we arrive at the slippery individual
that we call General Ignorance. Fingers on buzzers, please.
Where are most of the world's obelisks?
# Go home... #
-Oh, come on, we've got one.
We've got one!
# Down under... #
-I want that to be true.
But no, they are in Rome.
There are twice as many obelisks in Rome as there are in Egypt.
So 13 in Rome, six in Egypt.
They were nicked by... Oh, five of the ones in Rome are home-grown,
but the rest were taken from Egypt.
And the Egyptians call them tekhenu.
We call them obelisks because Herodotus, the Greek traveller,
was the first one to write about them, so we get the Greek name.
So you said Britain has one.
-What is the name of the one that we have?
-I don't know.
-There it is.
-It's Cleopatra's Needle, right?
Yes! The American gets the point!
Of course, as soon as you say it, of course!
Yes! Now, name an endangered mammal that eats bamboo.
-Glad you said it! Yeah.
-Not so, why?
-Bill, any idea?
-Well, they're not that endangered.
-They are no longer endangered.
-Oh, they're all over the place.
-You can't go in any shopping centre in London
without them taking up all the seats.
-Elephants eat bamboo, is there a right answer?
There is, but it isn't panda,
because they are no longer designated as endangered.
-It's a golden bamboo...
-There, look, how cute is that?
-Look at his little face!
Look, cute! And then a bird of prey!
"There's only the two of us left now!
"Phone the World Wildlife Fund. Stop eating the bamboo!
"That's why they're upset."
"We're making the same mistakes again and again and again!
"We need to adapt to new habitats!"
"Shut up, I'm eating all the bamboo before the bird comes back."
I love bamboo, I bloody love it!
You can do so much with it.
You can grill it, you can fry it. You can chop it up and it's good.
You can make scaffolding out of it, for building a lemur house.
It's a very flexible plant, everyone knows that!
You can make a xylophone out of it, for God's sake!
There's loads of it, why are we dying out?!
We should be thriving.
We're not having enough sex.
It doesn't really look like bamboo.
It looks like he's crimping the end of a joint.
"Yeah, let's crimp it, here we are, that's that.
"Right, OK, come on, everyone."
The Camberwell Carrot.
That's why they're dying out, they're just not doing anything.
Best job ever, I think, in 2014,
China's Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre
started recruiting panda nannies.
-Oh, my gosh.
-You get paid the equivalent of £28,000 a year.
You get free meals, travel, accommodation.
And you get to hug pandas all day.
What are any of us doing with our lives?
Some basic knowledge of pandas is required,
as well as the ability to take pictures.
The work has only one mission,
spending 365 days with the pandas
and sharing in their joys and sorrows.
Aw. I don't think they have any joy or sorrow though, do they?
-Yeah, what are panda sorrows?
-They're just pandas, aren't they?
I like the little one in the middle.
"I may be small, but I'll take any of you.
"I can take on any of you."
-He's a tough one.
-They're about to drop that one.
And ready... Go!
-It would just be the softest crash in the world, though.
This one, this is my favourite.
Yeah, this one. That's the best. "Show business!"
# There's no business like... #
A panda with jazz hands, you don't see that very often, do you?
Now, how many hills was Rome built on?
Six, six, five.
-Seven and a half.
-Oh, no, you've done it again!
COLIN SINGS HAPPILY
It's always been known as seven, but it seems to be a misunderstanding.
They used to have a big festival called the Septimontium,
which means seven hills, they celebrated the whole thing.
But actually, when you look at the ancient list of the hills involved
that they are celebrating, there are eight.
And Mary Beard, who's a wonderful classicist,
says, "Something has got confused there somewhere along the line."
There's about 75 cities in the world that claim to have been built on seven hills.
There are two Romes, two Athens.
There's a Seven Hills in Ohio, which is rather aptly named.
About a quarter of Europe's capital cities claim to be.
Bath, where I grew up, that's supposed to be based on Rome.
-The seven hills, but, you know. I don't know.
Lisbon's very hilly.
They have a funicular railway.
It's like the worst Trip Adviser review.
No, no, on the contrary, it's a very good tip about Lisbon.
It's very hilly, it's what you need to know more than anything else.
"They said it was hilly on Trip Adviser."
You need to be warned about it, you're absolutely right.
OK, let's stop doing places that are hilly.
Dublin's not very hilly.
-No. OK, moving on from hilly.
Holland's completely flat, no hills at all.
Amsterdam, no, barely an incline.
Nothing at all. No, there's no crime in Holland or Belgium.
-You can see people coming from miles off.
-Because you can see everyone!
Do you know, I can imagine you in a home, somehow.
Will you come and see me?
I'll bring you some mashed banana.
Argentina, that's really hilly.
I'll be in the next bed.
"What was that, Alan?"
Vancouver, but it's not a capital, doesn't count.
-Yeah. Fiji, is that hilly?
Do you think this is sharp enough to kill somebody?
Yeah, if you have enough intention behind it.
They've got a funicular railway and don't deny it.
On the subject of Rome...
THAT is hilly, it's famous for it.
-They thought it was seven, but it turns out it's eight.
-Eight, we know that.
-Does this qualify as entertainment?
The seven hills...
..the seven hills of Rome are actually eight.
There are many other places in the world that are also hilly
and I can't be arsed to tell you about them.
When I am in the company of men in a group like this,
I feel happy about my life choices. And so...
And so, our international odyssey is over,
and it's time to work out what it's cost us.
Let's have a look at the scores.
In last place, we have, with...
Ah, this is magnificent. Minus 57, it's Alan.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
A very creditable minus 3, Bill.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Considering it was her very first show, she got a full 3 points, Desiree.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Colin, 16 points, you are the winner.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
# Australians, oh, let us rejoice
# For we are young and free... #
-No, you're not...
# Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours... #
And the suburb where they make Neighbours is quite hilly.
The winner takes home this week's objectionable object,
and it is this lovely souvenir spider.
-There you go.
-There you go.
It only remains for me to thank Desiree, Bill, Colin and Alan.
And to end this Overseas show,
I leave you with this story about travel.
Muhammad Ali was on a flight
when a hostess asked him to put on his seat belt.
"Superman don't need no seat belt," said Ali.
To which she replied, "Superman don't need no plane."
Thank you, goodnight.
Sandi Toksvig ventures overseas to find out about Allotment Annies, who keeps their brothers in a cage, and much else besides. With Bill Bailey, Colin Lane, Desiree Burch and Alan Davies.