Friday 26 February 2010

Leech barometer

Bored of treating my cold with broth, Lemsip and whisky, I thought I'd check Enquire Within Upon Everything for alternative treatments. Unfortunately, it should have been titled Enquire Within Upon Everything Except Relieving Cold Symptoms - an extraordinary omission when it offers treatments for smallpox scars, baldness, chilblains, all sorts of coughs, consumption, dropsy, jaundice, rickets...

However, I was certainly distracted from my symptoms by an intriguing project: the leech barometer. Yes, using real leeches.
Take a two-ounce phial three-parts filled with pure water, and place in it a healthy leech, cover the mouth of the bottle with a piece of muslin, and it will most accurately prognosticate the weather. If the weather is to be fine, the leech lies motionless at the bottom of the glass, and coiled together in a spiral form; if rain may be expected, it will creep up to the top of its lodgings, and remain there till the weather is settled; if we are to have wind, it will move through its habitation with amazing swiftness, and seldom goes to rest till it begins to blow hard; if a remarkable storm of thunder and rain is to succeed, it will lodge for some days before almost continually out of the water, and discover great uneasiness in violent throes and convulsive-like motions; in frost as in clear summer-like weather it lies constantly at the bottom; and in snow as in rainy weather it pitches its dwelling in the very mouth of the phial. The water should be changed weekly in summer and fortnightly in winter.

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