Creativity: A hairy moment for horticulture

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The Independent Culture
WE HAVE been smothered in suggestions of what to do with Europe's excess of hair-clippings, some more hirsuteable than others. Thank you, R Naylor, for that weak pun, which was almost as bad as Stuart Cockerill's characterization of Germany as a European Herr mountain.

The most popular use was in the garden: Mrs A E Crook advises anyone troubled by invading deer to tie up bundles of unwashed human hair in unwashed human clothing, then hang them on the bushes under attack. The smell will deter the deer. John Nicholls agrees with this deer-deterrent, and puts out more hair for birds' nesting material, and yet more on the compost heap or dug into heavy clay soil to lighten it.

Mike Harris sprinkles hair in the garden to protect seeds and strawberry plants from birds. 'They have been observed turning away disgustedly with a mouthful of hair,' he says. However, Virginia Chambers points out a side-effect of garden hair-bags which 'give rise to endless speculation among the village gossips, combined with dark mutterings of voodoo.'

Cecile Tait proposes 'a mail-order blind-dating service, where partners are chosen from a lock of hair'. She also offers hair 'to provide a modicum of comfort to battery hens'. Others took a still more benign approach towards animals. Mollie Caird proposed using hair 'to replace the down in eider ducks' nests, so cruelly removed by duvet manufacturers.'

Michael McGinn takes more trouble, knitting hair into small jackets for eider ducks who have contributed to duvets. He also suggests its use as 'bedding for your louse farm.' Tom Gaunt wants to knit it into cardigans for sheep. An interesting method of recycling was proposed by Stephen Hodnett, using the hair to 'replace the stuffing that usually explodes out of hairdressers' chairs.' More basically, Mrs E M Tomlinson proposes spinning the hair into thread, then making it into cloth to be used to warm the bald.

Mary Hess, who describes herself as old, female and in hospital, sends an urgent request for some 'greyish/yellowish straggly hair' which she wants to superglue to her forehead. 'My hair is a bloody awful mess; nothing could be worse.'

Kevin Morgan, one of several contributors seeking vengeance against politicians, thinks it could be more appropriately transplanted onto the palms of MEPs. On a similar theme, Geoffrey Langley proposes the introduction into the House of Commons of hairsacks - large and uncomfortable cushions stuffed with hair to be used as punishment for 'hair-related misdemeanours such as talking through the back of the neck.'

He believes that at least 600 such cushions would be required, and that any surplus hair should be used to make hair-shirts for the next election campaign. Harking back to the last election, an anonymous contributor suggests weaving 'a vast hair-shirt for the nation's collective penance at having voted the Tories back in.' R Naylor proposes the use of hair and chilli sandwiches as a politician deterrent.

'Paul and Steph', writing in red ink, advocate its use as confetti at bald bridegrooms' weddings, or 'making coats for dogs aspiring to look like their owners', or 'iron-filings for alternative scientists'.

Ecologically, Iain Lorriman believes that huge hair mats could be accurately positioned to cover holes in the ozone layer as 'a sort of atmospheric wig for our balding planet.' Or, he suggests, it could be used to revive the tradition of roof-thatching.

James Snowden suggests selling it in bargain packets: 'No need to specify use; that is the customer's problem. Only stress value for money.' Which sounds like the ultimate entrepreneurial solution to all our Creativity problems. But why, Mr Snowden, did you not suggest this last week, when we were looking for uses for lawyers? His other idea, to 'compress it to make bath-plugs' is certainly tried and tested, or was that a suggestion for lawyers too?

Stephen Clarke suggests that 'strands

can be individually greased and sold to canteens and restaurants as garnishes for soups, quiches, sauces and even ice-creams.' But we thought there was already a flourishing trade in this commodity. On a slightly different culinary theme, Margaret Partridge offers the following fascinating contribution:

'My biochemist sister used to boil up large quantities of hair clippings with acid and from the resulting black mess isolated the sulphur- containing amino acid, cystine, which was fed to rats as a protein supplement.' She suggests this might be of use as an unpalatable diet for overweight rats.

Rosemary Emmett believes that suitably perfumed hair-stuffed pillows could provide a natural, non-chemical treatment for head-lice. 'Place lousy human head on pillow. Lice will jump out of child's hair.' She thinks it makes a good roof insulator too, but her most elaborate idea is to weave, plait and glue the hair into towels to be used 'to welcome guests in the Biblical manner, washing their feet and drying them in a Bethany style'. 'Chop it onto tiny pieces', says Stuart Cockerill, 'and distribute it to adolescents as ego-enhancing refills for their electric razors.' Or 'distribute it illegally to smash the economy of Columbia.'

Next week, we shall report on readers' ideas for alternative, non-aggressive, inexpensive, ecologically sound defence systems. In the meantime, we should like to hear your ideas for using those old keys you find at the backs of drawers which don't seem to fit anything but you cannot bring yourself to throw away in case the suitcase, or cupboard, or house they do fit turns up somewhere. Ideas for the creative use of old keys should be sent to: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.