Julian Cook's science laboratory

There was exciting news over the festive season as new species of marine life was found living around hydrothermal vents deep at the bottom of the ocean.

My six older brothers, with whom I always spend Christmas, remained unmoved by this and were only brought to tears by watching the protracted expiry of Pat Butcher on Eastenders. However, as I was later able to relay to them with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint, these two behemoth world events are intrinsically linked.

The bottom of the sea is probably the most inhospitable place on earth and you would assume that nothing would be able to live there. But although it is completely void of light and warmth, bizarre creatures are able to thrive close to hot volcanic vents in the ocean floor. It is almost like the seabed is Albert Square, the Queen Vic is its
super-heated, noxious spewing hole and the community of gruesome,
spineless jokes-of-nature are the cast of Eastenders.

So it is only natural that in such locations, we should find things which we would never dream of meeting in normal life. During the New Year’s episode, I could not stop mulling over the latest discovery – a lumbering beast with a leathery skin and a peculiar branched gonad. It has no discernable mouth and instead, breathes by drawing in and blowing out water from its anus. It is for this reason that you should always vacate the swimming pool if you think you can see Pam St Clement getting in. Furthermore, as is always the case when you get into deep waters with this species, you also run the risk of having a jet of sperm released close to you which is terribly inconvenient and requires a mixture of two parts nail polish remover to one part WD-40 to remove from the skin.

My point is, these creatures live in Albert Square for a reason. You would never, ever want them to figure out how to break free. After too much late night Stilton on New Year’s night, I imagined one had got out and was climbing up my trouser leg – I became so distressed that I had to use my entire week’s supply of injectable sedatives in one sitting. Who knows the psychological damage these aberrations could wreak on society given the chance? One nippy little critter with tiny holes instead of eyes and long hairy arms gives us a clue as to what lies in store if we allow it. Two words: Love Actually.

It is best for all concerned if we keep them strung out on the constant supply of ominous ‘friendly’ bacteria and perpetually billowing emissions of noxious gases to which they have become accustomed. If one gets too big for its boots again, we can only pray that Pat Butcher or David Attenborough comes along in the speeding taxi cab of life to restore the natural balance.  

Dr Julian Cook is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Studies


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Your problems solved, with Holly Harper

Dear Holly,
Now Christmas is over, my husband has lost his festive cheer and has gone back to his usual, miserable self. He might have got me nice earrings for Christmas, but the only place I’ll get to wear them is the kitchen sink. If I’m lucky he’ll refer to me by my own name later tonight as he climbs on top of me and starts pumping vigorously. All I want is someone to make me feel a bit special, is that too much to ask?

Dear Isobel,
You could always join Mrs Walker’s Learning Support class. They’re all special. They don’t do proper lessons like the rest of us, just fun stuff like making pictures and singing daft songs and expressing their confusing feelings with play-doh. Most of the time they look like they’re having great fun, except when one of them goes berserk and they get put on lock down. That means they all have to sit with their hands on their heads, close their eyes and hum the tune to ‘if you’re happy and you know it’ until whichever one of them is kicking off finally calms down. Once, I was walking past their classroom and heard an eerie humming, and sure enough, Oliver French had got all over excited and painted Amelia Gough’s entire body with bright red poster paint and then hacked off her hair with a pair of left-handed scissors. He was using Sellotape to fashion it into a beard while the rest of the class hummed with their eyes shut. It was a moving scene. Don’t worry though, Mrs Walker subdued him with the safety gloves and it all calmed back down fairly quickly.
Hope that helps!