Excuses, excuses

“The goat ate my homework.” I remember this, from high school. I was trying to make the conventional excuse, that the dog had eaten my homework, but wanted something more plausible. For dogs, according to my information, did not often eat paper. Goats, alternatively, often did.

I’d been reading Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World — a book so good it must be banned by the commies before every boy has read it — where an unwanted goat is slipped aboard Slocum’s little sloop, the Spray. This was done by a well-intentioned American at St Helena, in the South Atlantic. Mr Slocum was stuck with this animal, along with a big bag of the Royal Mail, to Ascension, his next British-ruled island.

Now, our marine literature contains many proofs, to the effect that goats make poor sailors. I used to share an office with a very amusing photograph of a goat leaping an improbable distance ashore, from a dhow landing somewhere in the Persian Gulf. They (the goats) may be sure of their footing on high mountain precipices, but on a ship the deck keeps moving, and they don’t like that.

Slocum neglected to tie his goat to the mast. He confesses as much. Once inside the cabin, and feeling peckish, the goat began eating Slocum’s navigation charts. This was the more inconvenient, because one was the map for a difficult upcoming landfall.

Alas, I was born too late to give him my recipe for meemee saag (a delicious Punjabi goat stew); and anyway it requires a lot of spinach, and spinach does not grow in the South Atlantic. Too, Slocum, though not a vegetarian, had a moral objection to eating his shipmates. He thought this carried a scent of cannibalism.

What happened to the goat, after it was offloaded on Ascension (it took the lead in disembarking), history does not tell.

The need for some variation upon “the dog ate my homework,” was felt in Rome recently, as the blog, Rorate Caeli, pointed out. The Vatican’s update was “computer coding error.” This to explain the suspicious transfer of millions of dollars to suspicious recipients, in Australia.

We are all at sea with the Vatican, these days. Often, we feel like the goat.

As a nice Catholic boy, I could not wish to say anything uncharitable towards them. But I’m reminded of what Thomas More said, in a polemic against Martin Luther. It was about some production of a dog, that he esteemed more highly. But I mustn’t quote it in a family Idlepost.