Creativity: Pass the tea-bag, please

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EARL GREY, Lapsang and mint tea-bags may be craftily arranged and stitched into a scented patchwork quilt, according to Anne Greer, while M W T of Skegness suggests adding a piece of striped ribbon and offering them to the Japanese for medals at competitive tea ceremonies.

Mulch and eye-comforters were the most popular suggestions, although Mary Hess advises: 'Don't put them under your eyebags until you have squeezed out all the tea, or you'll ruin a white jumper.'

'Splat on letters to make fascinating background patterns,' suggest Steph and Paul on a fascinatingly patterned letter. Or hang them round the hats of teetotal Aussies. They also provide a formula for the re-use of tea-bags based on a standard unit called the NBE (new bag equivalent). Each used bag weighs in at 1/(p+1) NBEs where p=number of times it has been used before. So five four-times used bags is adequate for a new cup. The formula becomes unreliable as the volume of bags approaches the capacity of the teacup.

Sara MacAllen's blow-dried tea-bag evening dress sounds delicious, though we feel she will have more success marketing her tea-bag bikini, guaranteeing an authentic tannin tan and no white patches.

Other ideas include hibernation pillow for hedgehog (Anthony Savory), attached to upper arm to cure caffeine addiction (M T of Surbiton), or to throw at the television (Mrs R Cazenove).

Finally, Bridget Williams adds a historical footnote: 'In the Sixties, missionaries in Nigeria were receiving little packages with notes saying 'These have only been used once, dear'. This habit must have become a craze because the Nigerian government issued an import restriction, prohibiting 'tea, which by any process of defusion or decoction has lost its strength or virtue.'

Next week, burst balloons. Meanwhile, ideas for the use of cacti are needed at: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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