Sunday 8 October 2017

Douglas's End, Zog's Smoking

Wandering around in Birmingham's botanical gardens yesterday, I came across a board carrying a little background information about the plant hunter David Douglas, after whom the Douglas Fir is named. The intrepid Douglas, who introduced some 240 plants to Britain, travelled widely in the wilds of North America, and met his end, at the age of 35, in Hawaii. Climbing in the mountains, he became snow blind and fell into a pit trap, where he was gored to death by a wild bull. (At least, that's the version of his death given on the Birmingham board. Wikipedia offers a more nuanced account of Douglas's mysterious end.) 

Then, this morning, I discovered that King Zog of Albania (born on this day in 1895) was probably, at his peak, the world's heaviest smoker, getting through more than 200 a day. He also survived something like 55 assassination attempts, on one occasion defending himself with his own pistol, making him the only head of state to have personally exchanged fire with a would-be assassin.

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