Creativity: Help for bald hedgehogs

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The Independent Culture
THE CACTUS: A user's guide. Oddly, several readers reverted to a favourite theme of this column by suggesting a 'tethering post for Yorkshire terriers'. Since the last object to inspire that particular use was Norman Lamont, we wonder whether this can be mere coincidence, or whether a deep underlying truth is waiting to be discovered. However, let us proceed with a cactus-use classification system:

In the office, an 'eco-friendly memo cactus' is the idea of MT of Surbiton: 'Simply stick your notes on the needles for effortless note-keeping.' And, he suggests, it can double as a desk-tidier by rolling back and forth. Several readers offered the idea of biodegradable drawing pins.

In the home as underwear stands, baked-bean holders, cat scratchers, or a device for turning ordinary tights or stockings into fishnets (all Stuart Cockerill); a holder for pineapple and cheese cubes at parties (Elisabeth Telford); pin-cushion for non-sewers (several); to comb the more reluctant burrs out of one's hair (Michael Rubinstein); as hair-rollers, especially to teach trainee hairdressers to be gentle (Paul and Steph); as a perforator to increase the hole count before the re-use of the teabags of a fortnight ago, or worn on the back as a snore preventer (both Geoffrey Langley), cleaning nooks and crannies in silver cutlery (John and Fiona Earle); self-replenishing toothpick dispensers (Steph and Paul); stippling tool for interior decorators (Len Clarke); tool for unblocking clogged shower-heads (Anne Greer).

In the doll's house, a drying rack for the washing (Sylvia Reynolds).

In the sports arena: 'Strategically planted to enhance the excitement of dull pastimes such as golf, snooker and naturism,' (S Cockerill).

For pets: 'When hollowed out and dried, certain species of cactus make excellent hair-pieces for balding hedgehogs,' (John Parke); toupee for bald eagle (J Weyman); repairing the quills of porcupines (J & F Earle); as an inflatable doll substitute for amorous hedgehogs (L Clarke). B O'Riley, however, believes that a cactus is the perfect fantasy love-object for a piece of Velcro and suggests they might mate and breed an eco-friendly fastening device.

In the garden: Lawn aerators for artificial turf (E Telford); baked in a jacket of clay in the camp-fires of Romany vegetarians (David Filmer). Surrounding plants as slug-deterrent (several).

In the studio: Use the spines for fine- ink drawing (J & F Earle).

In the desert: Steph and Paul stress the moisture-retaining properties of the cactus, and advise that it would be sensible to take one with you on any desert crossing.

Ecological uses: Green knuckle-dusters (E Telford), painted brown, squashed and left as warnings to hedgehogs on motorways (N James).

In the sado-masochism room: To be sat on when hair shirts are in short supply (M Rubinstein); as a masochist's loofah (several); to play Russian cactette - 'we don't know the rules, but apparently all you need is five cucumbers and a cactus,' write Steph and Paul.

As a deterrent: On window ledges against burglars (several), as sleeping armed policemen to halt joyriders, or missiles for similar purpose (Linda and John Browning). John and Fiona Earle suggest that cactus-skin bras provide excellent protection for any lady suffering harassment. And according to John Parke: 'The Moroccans use large opuntiae as a substitite for barbed wire to protect their smallholdings.'

Surreally, James Browning, aged 6, suggests that someone should grow an introverted cactus with inward-growing spikes. And romantically, Nicholas Gough says that 'cacti are very beautiful, live for many years, survive everything and may be given to anyone to symbolise a long and enduring friendship.'

Finally, a correction: We should like to apologise to British Rail for the suggestion that the Waterloo to Dover train could be powered by a string of tied-together burst balloons. As C G Noel points out: 'Such trains leave from Waterloo East, which is not a terminus, so that the balloon would have to be attached to a part of the station superstructure rather than fixed buffers. The likely effect is that the station would catch the train up somewhere near St Mary Cray.'

Next week we shall report on your ideas for the use of ice-skates. And thinking ahead, you might like to perform your mental triple toe-loops on the subject of the ring-pulls from fizzy-drink cans. All ideas will be gratefully received at Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

May we remind contributors that it is not necessary to add the words 'please forward if taken over' to the envelope.

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