The Saturday Miscellany: How to write a gag; James Sommerin's fridge; Roja Parfum; Caroline Bucci Twister NSPCC bracelet; YAWN


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How to write a gag

By Oscar Quine

You don't need to be able to tell a joke to write one. It just takes practice and lateral thinking. Here's Tony Kirwood, author of 'How to Write Comedy' (Constable & Robinson £9.99) to tell you how...

"Think of an everyday theme such as 'childhood'. Jot down related topics: Christmas; punishment; treats; pocket money; bed-times. By each topic write down a subtopic. For example, by 'punishment' you could put 'naughty step'."

"Try to find a way of reversing it or turning it upside down. Let's see what could happen if we turned a punishment, 'naughty step', into a treat."

"How about, 'My parents spoilt me rotten – they'd place my naughty step right by the ice-cream van'? Note the two-part structure: set-up (expectation) and punchline (surprise). Keep searching your subtopics for reversals till you find a joke."

Rotating column: Compounding things

By Sally Newall

In August, my family would decamp to France. I'd be dispatched to the boulangerie, clutching a fistful of francs and preloaded with stock phrases: "Quatre pains au chocolat et une baguette s'il vous plaît" usually. If the vendeur garbled back, I'd deploy: "Je ne comprends pas, je suis anglaise".

My language-learning remains unskilled yet enthusiastic. I love it when I come across untranslatables; an utterance that condenses a clumsy sentence into one efficient word.

We're talking the lesser-known cousins of schadenfreude. In French, I like déspaysement – 'The unsteady feeling you get when you're away from your home country'.

My favourite is the Japanese betsubara, or 'other stomach'. It's a succinct way of saying "Oh yes, I've always got room for pud".*

*Try it when a waiter hovers with the dessert menu

Micro extract: The stirring

"The opening of the Wall was like an awakening after a long sleep – for the eastern half of the divided city in particular. As though touched by a magic wand, the numb giant body began to stir and burst out of its shackles of reinforced concrete."

From ‘Berlin Now: The Rise of the City and Fall of the Wall’ by Peter Schneider (Penguin, £10.99, Nov)

Instant Ethics

By Ellen E Jones

Dear Ellen

Q. Should one – as a man – ever remove one's shirt in the city on a hot summer's day?

A. I take a broadly pro-nips position. Do note, however, that you are more likely to gain recognition for this righteous protest against gendered dress codes (that is what this is, right??), if you pair your bare chest with a flattering leather mini-skirt.


Four play: City syndromes

1. Stockholm syndrome*

2. Oslo syndrome

3. Lima syndrome

4. Paris syndrome

* term coined after Swedish bank siege which began today in 1953

All good things

By Charlotte Phlby


Flaming good

This season's range from Roja Parfum's scented candle collection includes Néroli, Jasmine-de-Grasse and Tubéreuse. Perfect for retaining the scent of summer as autumn draws ever-nearer (sob). £75,


Brace position

Proceeds from the Caroline Bucci Twister NSPCC bracelet go to the Childline School Service, which puts trained volunteers into primary schools to help protect against child abuse. Comes in adult and 'Bambini' sizes. From £250,



Nightie night

Launching next month, YAWN is a luxury nightwear brand with super-soft, beautifully-printed night-robes, sets and single pieces in ever-so-tasteful designs. Sleep tight. £95,