I was recently approached at a gig I was running by a man who was in desperate need of three dwarves as, due to illness, his pantomime was only in possession of four sevenths of the usual quota.
I am still baffled as to why he thought I might be in any way useful but it did get me thinking about the number seven.
Did you know that there are seven species of bear and it takes a lobster about seven years to grow to be one pound?
Mice, whales, elephants, giraffes and humans all have seven neck vertebrae; it takes seven years to make Swiss grating cheese; Diana, Princess of Wales was Humphrey Bogart’s seventh cousin and the opening-day queue at the first McDonald’s Drive-Thru in Kuwait City was seven miles long.
There used to be eight deadly sins, including acedia – the sin of apathy – but Pope Gregory the Great trimmed the list to seven and couldn’t be bothered to put that one in.
Once you start down the path of seven it’s difficult not to see the number everywhere.
Seven natural wonders of the world, seven wonders of the ancient world and there used to be seven centres for recycled toothpicks in Kulang, China.
I can’t imagine the need for one toothpick recycling plant let alone seven but apparently it was big business for Kulang. People brought in used toothpicks and got paid 50p per pound.
I have a friend who does a marvellous, if stomach churning, trick involving a disappearing toothpick and his nose. Interestingly, this is the same friend who continues to win many a bet from unsuspecting pub patrons by saying he can bite his own eye.
He actually has two glass eyes; though he is not blind. Instead he has two glass eyes for the same eye.
One is a perfect match for his working eye and the other is a specially made bloodshot replacement. Upon departing for a good night out he will put in the heavily veined eye and declare that he is going out to party until both his eyes match.
Christmas also marks with sadness the day that another great drinker, WC Fields, passed away.
The legendary comic was a lifelong agnostic and, having been so scathing about his existence in this life (“start every day off with a smile and get it over with”), he also claimed he was unconcerned about the next.
On his deathbed, however, a friend visited and found Fields thumbing through the Bible. The friend was bemused and asked what the dying man was doing.
“I’m looking,” he declared, “for a loophole”.
And, whilst we’ve got the Bible out (goodness hasn’t this column been seamless!), I am reminded of the Sunday school class who were asked to draw pictures of their favourite Bible stories.
The teacher admired many sheep and angels and then she came to a small boy who had drawn four people on an aeroplane. She asked him which story it was meant to represent.
“This,” he replied, “is the flight to Egypt.”
The teacher nodded and pointed to the four people. “So, who do we have here?”
“That’s Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus,” replied the boy.
“And the fourth person?” asked the teacher.
“Oh, that’s Pontius the Pilot.”
Tom Taylor’s Sitting Room Comedy Club returns to the St George Hotel, Harrogate on Wednesday, January 11 with the legendary Jeff Innocent, who was recently crowned Best Stand-Up at the 2016 UK Comedy Awards.
Strong support is provided by Ivo Graham (as seen on Live at the Apollo and Mock the Week), Kiri Pritchard-McLean (Chortle Award nominee) and MC Scott Bennett (English Comedian of the Year finalist).
Tickets and more information are available from the venue or www.sittingroomcomedy.com.
Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails.