Brewer's Droop #207

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I’m a big fan of Stephen Fry. I didn’t like his last book much though and, let’s be honest, he’s never going to be an award-winning actor, but I think his QI programme is truly fabulous – and I look forward to them with great delight.

However, I’ve only just realised that he is fallible and, like you and I, has believed someone who is wrong (not very often, granted), but one error and your reputation takes a huge knock – especially when you set yourself such high standards.

I discovered this when one of his guests, Giles Brandreth, pontificated (literally) on one of the ceremonies in which a newly elected Pope must partake.

Apparently the new elected Pontiff sits, wearing no underwear, on a specially designed chair (basically one with a hole in it) and this is passed over the heads of a group of Cardinals so that they may view his genitals.

When everything appears to be normal and in place they cry “testiculos habet et bene pendentes” (he has testicles and they hang well).

There are several versions of why this should be done and they all date back to the Middle Ages and the story was first reported in the 13th Century.

Essentially, a lady called “Joan” disguised herself as a man and joined the clergy where she enjoyed a spectacular career and ended up being elected Pope John VIII.

She might never have been discovered if she hadn’t fallen pregnant (they’re a naughty lot in the Vatican you know). Even worse, she gave birth during a Papal ceremony (or it might have been whilst mounting a horse – the stories differ).

It must have been a bit of shock to the Cardinals. One minute your boss is being all manly, sitting on a throne doing all kinds of masculine Papal things when suddenly he drops a baby and starts breast-feeding.

Anyway, Pope Joan was quickly stoned to death (or buried – or both) on the “Via Sacra” (the “Sacred Way”) but now commonly known as “shame street” which leads between the Colosseum and St. Clements Church. Popes always avoid this street.

The point is that Giles Brandreth is wrong when he says that all new Popes have their testes checked. In the first place there is no historical evidence that this ceremony ever took place at all and secondly, I was there recently and everyone I asked said they’d never heard of it (but one guy did sell me an ice cream).

Whatever, the 5 points awarded Brandreth in QI should be revoked and he should be made to suffer the same indignity and have his own genitals investigated on live TV for being wrong – but mainly for being so pompously wrong. Who knows, there may even be some surprises there too.

The Church also denies emphatically the existence of Pope Joan – insisting that she never existed and that it’s all a lie. But in the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies, “well they would say that wouldn’t they?”


During my recent visit to the Mediterranean, I was quite shocked at the Vatican charging an entrance fee to its museum (including the Sistine Chapel of course) and even more surprised at all the souvenir junk they sell. On the other hand, when I went to Istanbul and walked around the Blue Mosque I was humbled by the fact that (a) they allowed non-believers into their place of worship and (b) they didn’t try and make any money out of it. There’s a moral in there somewhere and the Muslim faith has certainly risen in my estimation.


No 10 Downing Street is one of the most heavily guarded buildings in Britain.

The front door cannot be opened from the outside because it has no handle, and no one can enter the building without passing through a scanner and a set of security gates manned by armed guards.

However, in the first five years after Tony Blair became prime minister, 37 computers, four mobile phones, two cameras, a mini-disc player, a video recorder, four printers, two projectors and a bicycle were stolen from the building.

As far as I know, Cherie Blair has not yet been questioned.


There’s nothing I want to add to what everyone else has said about his friends except to observe that watching Jacob Zuma run this country is like watching Edward Scissorhands try to make balloon animals.


Finally, as I write this, both my sons are about to start the “2013 Transvulcania” ultra-marathon. That’s over 83 km up and down a Volcano on the island of La Palma.

I taught them well.

Filed as:


  1. Very very well worded!!
    Interesting reading

  2. Your sons must have huge balls to tackle a race like that! Huge Respect.

  3. I would opine that anyone undertaking an 83km run up and down a volcano should immediately seek psychiatric assistance, and not from members of the immediate family who may well suffer from the same malady.

    Theft from Downing Street? Well.. there’s that Brown fellow who always had a shifty look about him.

    • Correct on every point – except Brown. Didn’t he lose an eye there? (Perhaps a cleaner will find it under a carpet one day).

  4. Although Stephen Fry has now twice proven himself human by making mistakes, QI is also my favourite programme. The other mistake was that Boeing uses live birds to test the danger of bird’s flying into aircraft engines … animal activists investigated and found it never happened.

    • Ah, I always though they used dead chickens. A better idea would be to use corrupt government officials.

      • Instead of years of suspension – on full pay – at taxpayers expense. Televise it and I can just imagine the ‘top & tail’ advertising opportunities.

    • Quite right about the bird thing and the Boeing engine tests. Thawed dead chickens were used, and then frozen chickens were use to simulate chunks of ice, bigger harder objects etc, etc, to test fan blades.

  5. Well articulated and very witty. The humour is refreshing and with some atti…no, some balls!
    We will all be summoned to Guptaville when the next president is picked cause we all know that they will have some hold over whoever that is anyway…
    I’m with Steve on the psychiatric assistance… no offence. But whether its balls or not, #RESPECT. 83km is no joke… take it from a well rounded couch warmer…

    • Yep, 83 km is a long way – but they’re both doing 160km events in June & July – one in Switzerland and one in England.

      I also agree with Steve – psychiatric assistance urgently needed.

  6. Have to ask … if all new pontiffs were expected to sit on this throne to have their privates inspected for appropriate “pendentes”, surely John …um… Joan would have been somewhat exposed … literally? As usual, I am not disappointed in any way with your article, had a few loud guffaws which results now in me sharing your article with others so they may benefit from the abdominal exercises. Thank you. PSSSST: All strength to your sprogs.

    • Well, the ceremony was supposedly introduced AFTER “Joan” fooled everyone. Mind you, I know some women who would still pass the test!

  7. A great read Chris, really enjoyed it! Ciao

  8. You are droopping as well as ever old Brewer. Glad that you are embracing at least soime measure of Islam. Maybe take an excursion into the Karoo and check out the infidel slayers.

  9. Excellent read Chris. Had a good chuckle. It is in fact true. Each and every Pope that has existed throughout time has had the balls checked… by a 5 year old boy.

    Congrats to your sons. 83km is a task that not every person can do. They certainly kick my feable 15km weekly runs. Damn, they each do design and coding. Same industry as myself.

  10. I like Fry too but QI seems to concentrate on telling us all that what we’ve believed for centuries is wrong. Sometimes that can be boring.


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