Creativity: Blow your own paper clip

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The Independent Culture
HECTOR BERLIOZ, Nicholas Gough writes to tell us, considered the trombone capable of expressing a range of emotion from 'religious accent, calm and imposing . . . to wild clamours of the orgy'. Since trombone (as John and Fiona Earle inform us) is the French for paper-clip, how can we be sure he was not talking about paper-clips?

Anyway, trombone is also the French for trombone, so it must be a cause of constant confusion, but that is their problem. On with some things to do with trombones. These fall into three categories: musical, unmusical and other (occasionally rude).

Musical uses of a trombone are, to judge from readers' suggestions, very few indeed. Sara MacAllen, having 'endured six years of (her son's) trombone practice - a brain-addling experience,' recommends - with hindsight - 'Unassemble the thing as quickly as possible and re-assemble in the garden as a recreational facility for ants'.

Also in the garden, Anthony Savory confirms that 'with bell sealed, and slide fully extended, these instruments are ideal for distributing lawn seed . . . the gradual crescendo of noise gives the birds such a fright that one's garden becomes an avian no-go area for long enough for the grass to take root'.

'To blow musical bubbles,' say the Earles, while Paul McHugh produces an musical mobile for a baby by attaching a small furry animal to the crook and playing a lullaby over the cradle. 'The furry animal will probably enjoy it too,' he says. Alternatively, he proposes replacing the animal with a duster to 'whisk away the cobwebs while practising your scales'.

Unmusically, Michael Rubinstein sees them as aids for ear-plug salesmen, who can also use them to knock on strangers' doors without approaching close enough to bruise their knuckles.

Geoffrey Langley tells us that his grandfather used a trombone as a rain gauge when serving with the Indian Meteorological Service in Dehra Dun. During the dry season, it was filled with ring-pulls and the instrument blown hard to deter intruders. 'The fright it gave to Warren Hastings III, the cat, was a small price to pay for peace of mind.'

In the other (occasionally rude) category, David Hart queries the skeletal location of the trombone, but believes it could be useful in teaching children count to 76. Scientifically, P McHugh explains how to use a trombone together with a few peanuts to create a particle accelerator, while the Earles, with their trombones in reverse, pour music in one end to get wind-power from the other.

Finally, we have 'for insertion of large suppository,' or 'to unblock loo,' (Mrs F King). We asked Mrs King whether, in the latter case, you are meant to blow or agitate the slide and she said: 'You suck'. We are unsure whether this was an answer or a gratuitous insult, but we liked her idea of lining them up as bicycle racks.

Brian French just says: 'Put it back into the central heating system whence it escaped,' but the most useful and patriotic idea comes from Stuart Cockerill: 'A cricket bat for West Indians keen to make a match of it.' He also suggests its use as a penis-enlarger.

Next week we shall report on concepts for which English lacks an adequate word. Meanwhile, we'd like your ideas for what to do with the Crown Jewels. Suggestions should be sent to: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.