Sorry. My soft parts are stinging from the self-administered spanking. I'll be going forthwith on the course advertised in Bill Moore's copy of the Galaxy Gazette, published by frequency modulation of the Sun's UV Radiation, intended primarily for Advanced Celestial Beings: "Get through to planet earth. Revise those ancient e-mail techniques (yes, they still use e-mail). Communicate with your own pre-enlightened forefathers! Join our pre-eclipse Revisionary Communication classes and learn how to go back in time (but early landings should be avoided: Planet Earth is still largely bisexual and ACB visitors are likely to be felt, fondled, prodded and poked...).
I had been wondering if I had been receiving communication from outer space cunningly disguised by the "ancient manual" typeface. It's a relief to know it's true. Mary Flavin suggests a course more practical for harried parents: dental care for gerbils - gerbil gingivitis, flossing, brushing, root canal fillings (risks of performing) and fitting braces for prominent teeth. Nigel Plevin is particularly concerned to help out the Prime Minister: as well as sending Ofsted inspectors on a course entitled "Humility explained" and one teaching the unemployed how to "macrame those loose ends"; he suggests that Tone himself attend the intriguing "Zen and the art of unarmed table-tennis gestures".
Martin Brown wins a dictionary for the most insane (and detailed) suggestion, a year-long course in gargling, including modules on the Politics of Gargling, Gargling - a Feminist Perspective, Gargling and the Third Reich, Group Gargling for Health, Wealth and Inner Happiness and Teaching Your Dog to Gargle. P Bill would like to see an early retirement course for English Batsmen. Mike Gifford suggests Rung-Making for Social Climbers, How to Massage Figures for accountants with a hands-on approach and Fillings, for dental students requiring a sandwich course. But Andrew P F Duncan scores the other Chambers Dictionary for "Telephone boxes - Small Card Advertising, for part-time workers (female/male). Small groups or individuals. Single session pounds 25, group of six, pounds 100". All entries to be forwarded to the D of E in time for planning curricula for 2003; sadly we've missed the deadline for earlier years.
This week's problem: Luela Palmer would like original uses for empty plastic milk bottles. Suggestions, please, to Creativity, The Independent, Features, 18th Floor, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. The top two, or three if anyone has won one for suggesting the week's theme, will win a Chambers Dictionary. Results two weeks from today.