That age shall not weary them

It is true, today is the first anniversary of the election of the present Pope. Fortunately no one asks me to appear on talk shows any more, where, given as little as five minutes to blather, I’d be sure to say something wrong. God bless Pope Francis! May he become the very embodiment of our Scripture and Tradition, our lion standing guard, that not one jot nor one tittle shall in any wise pass from our Law!

Meanwhile my thoughts turn to Jonathan, a large tortoise to be found on the grass of Plantation House in St Helena’s Island. (They have also Myrtle, Frederika, David, and Emma.) According to the BBC, that unimpeachable source of daily news, Jonathan has now reached the age of one hundred and eighty-two, which must make him our oldest named land animal. Only one hundred and thirty-two of those years can be documented, however. He arrived, as others since deceased, fully mature from the Seychelles back in 1882. For a tortoise of that kind, “fully mature” implies about fifty years of age. Therefore he might be a little younger, or perhaps a lot older. It is speculated that the tortoises of this species — Aldabra Giants — can, under ideal conditions in which sailors never make them into soup, live to the quarter of a millennium.

Jonathan is well-treated on those grounds, even spoilt. The curious are kept at a reasonable distance, and he is conscientiously attended to. No Governor of St Helena could want Jonathan to die on his watch. Notwithstanding, the animal shows some effects of age. He has cataracts (but also a very powerful beak, so must be fed with caution). He may have lost his sense of smell. But his hearing is extremely sharp, and he doesn’t miss a meal call. He is also a perfectly affectionate creature, who loves to have the back of his neck scratched. More than affectionate, to the younger female giant tortoises, we are given to understand: a noisy and aggressive Priapus.

Thanks to BBC’s sidebar, I don’t have to count: Jonathan has outlived eight monarchs, and fifty-one British prime ministers. He was born before Victoria came to the throne. I pray that Elizabeth will live even longer. Indeed, any occasion is a good one for Loyalty, so let me add, God save the Queen!