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The Flat Cap on ... Bones

Yesterday The Flat Cap was bringing in the shopping when he hit the inside of his elbow on the door frame. This part of your body is called "the funny bone" but as it was a little painful The Flat Cap didn't find it very funny at all. After he'd put away the shopping; which was mostly groceries and toiletries, plus a pack of three pairs of sports socks that had been reduced to half price, he started to think more about bones in general. This was The Flat Cap's cue to do some more digging into the subject; not that he would ever physically dig for bones - that's the sort of thing only a grave robber or your pet dog would do.

The first thing The Flat Cap learned was that the funny bone isn't actually a bone at all; it's actually a nerve - the ulnar nerve. And the nerve is used to control some of the movements in your hand. But it does feel funny when you knock it. As the funny bone isn't actually a bone it therefore follows that, unlike a lot of other bones in your body, you can't break it. Just how many bones you have depends on your age. At birth it is reckoned you have around 270 bones but this decreases to 206 as you get older. This is because bones fuse as you age, and not because bits start dropping off when you begin to reach middle age. More than half of a human being's bones are in the arms and legs. The spine, chest, skull and pelvis are the other places where you'll find plenty of bones. Bones are great because they are very light yet strong enough to support a person's weight. Bones also protect the body's organs. The skull protects the brain, the ribs protect your heart and lungs, the pelvis protects your bladder and so on....

The Flat Cap also discovered that the longest and strongest bones are to be found in a person's legs. The longest is the femur, or thigh bone, and this connects the hip socket to the knee; unless of course you are Long John Silver, the fictional pirate who featured in Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island. Silver had a wooden let leg. Another famous person with a prosthetic leg is journalist and comedian Alex Brooker who often appears on television. Unlike Long John Silver Brooker is a real person and it was his right leg not his left leg that was amputated. The Flat Cap invariably finds Brooker entertaining and would put him in his list of top one hundred living male comedians.

Bones feature heavily in literature, music and film. Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to fetch her poor dog a bone. Alas when she got there the cupboard was bare and so the poor dog had none. Nowadays the cupboard would likely have a few tins of Pedigree Chum and it wouldn't be such an issue. There have been lots of songs about bones and there's even a even a British singer-songwriter called "Rag'n'bone Man" although his real name is Rory. When The Flat Cap was a boy the only rag-and-bone men were those who came down your road looking for your unwanted clothes and scrap metal.

The most famous rag-and-bone men were father and son Albert and Harold Steptoe who appeared in the legendary BBC sitcom "Steptoe and Son". Wilfrid Brambell who played Albert Steptoe also appeared in the Beatles' film "A Hard Day's Night" where he played the fictional grandfather of Paul McCartney. Harry H Corbett who played Harold Steptoe was awarded the OBE by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. However the middle "H" was somehow lost in the bureaucratic process and the award went to Harold Corbett, the puppeteer and creator of "Sooty". Both men nevertheless made it onto the same New Year's Honours list at the beginning of 1976.. There was also an American television series called "Bones". Despite airing for twelve seasons and 246 episodes it was never as funny as "Steptoe and Son".

In search of more bone related facts and figures The Flat Cap took a bus to his local museum where they have a big skeleton of a dinosaur; as well of lots other interesting displays. It was whilst he was looking up at the dinosaur bones that he met one of the employees called Kevin. Kevin said he knew a fair bit about bones and skeletons and volunteered the follow fascinating facts:

  • Dominoes are sometimes called "bones" because the earliest sets were made from either ivory or animal bone

  • In 2016 palaeontologists in Patagonia, Argentina discovered the biggest dinosaur skeleton ever. They estimated that the giant herbivore would have weighed about seventy tons, which is ten times the weight of an African elephant

  • It was tradition for the earliest rag-and-bone men to name their horses after bones in the human body

  • The smallest bone in the human body is located in the ear and is called the "stapes". It's just one eight of an inch long

  • The average butcher will see more than forty seven million animal bones during the course of his or her career

  • Although making bone broth is very simple there are more than six thousand recipes for this simple dish that relies on just boiling up animal bones in a pan

  • Leonard H "Bones" McCoy was a character in the television show "Star Trek". Fans of the show are called "Trekkies", or as Kevin remarked "people who need to get a life"

  • In Whitby, North Yorkshire there is a whale bone arch. The fifteen feet high bones are a symbol of the town's links to the whaling industry in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries

  • "The Bone Collector" is a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington and Angela Jolie. It is based on the crime novel of the same name

  • Boxer James "Bonecrusher" Smith held the WBA heavyweight boxing title between 1986 and 1987 before losing it to Mike Tyson

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