Creativity: Send in the armoured septic tank regiment

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The Independent Culture
THE STATE of the nation's defences have been exercising the minds of readers, enabling us to offer a number of cheap and potentially effective deterrent systems. Stuart Cockerill begins with four suggestions, designed to make the country terminally unattractive to any would-be aggressor:

Import nuclear waste from around the world and store it in leaky underground caverns close to geological fault lines; eradicate all tempting areas of 'outstanding natural beauty'; pollute the rivers with industrial effluent; allow financial control of the country to pass to a diversity of overseas investors, thereby ensuring planty of allies when the balloon goes up.

He continues: 'Oh bloody hell] Sorry, I've just realised that all of the above ideas have already been put into practice.'

His creative list then includes: 'Move the capital to Sellafield'; 'sandbag the south coast with copies of Margaret Thatcher's The Downing Street Years' and 'make sure that prospective invaders realise that Wales and Basingstoke are part of the deal.'

Joan Morrison also sees Lady Thatcher as a potential deterrent, though as a peace emissary rather than writer. 'Surely the prospect of Mrs Thatcher arriving and staying for as long as required would ensure a rapid settlement between even the most belligerent combatants.'

Iain Lorriman has an analogous suggestion. 'Capitulate at the mere suggestion of war, but send Lord Owen to negotiate armistice terms. The talks would then be so protracted that after some decades the dispute would be forgotten.'

If that doesn't work, he suggests: 'Simply exaggerate beyond all proportions our military strength. Who's to know that '10,000 tanks in Devon alone' refers to septic tanks.' On closer inspection, his suggestion actually said 'sceptic tanks' which may be an even better description. His next idea is equally ecological. Pointing out that the sonar frequency of whale song is indistinguishable from the emissions of nuclear submarines, he proposed the introduction of fleets of whales into our territorial waters to confuse enemy intelligence.

He suggests a procedure well known to readers of science fiction: 'Nominate a sporting elect to challenge the malefactor's representatives. We would fare well in track events and golf, and lose with dignity at chess.' Finally, if all else fails, change the name of the country to 'California'.

Further strategies of disinformation are suggested by John and Fiona Earle, who suggest that British Rail timetables and party manifestos should do the trick. On historical grounds, however, we prefer their alternative recommendation of woad.

Transport policy is at the heart of two further suggestions. Kevin Morgan points out that the garlicky halitosis and bagpipes defence policies of our near neighbours should be enough to deter any invaders except the French and Scottish.

The latter are no threat, since 'we didn't qualify for USA '94 either, and they are still laughing at us', while the French 'need only be issued with East Coast rail passes to slow them down to an ineffective crawl.' Tom Gaunt suggests setting up a contraflow system on all the major routes from the coast, with diversion signs ultimately leading back to the point of departure. But surely that is another one that has already been tried.

Next week, we will be giving your best ideas on what to do with those unidentified keys you find at the backs of drawers. Meanwhile, we offer a new creative challenge. The Argentinian writer and essayist Jorge Luis Borges refers in one of his works to a Chinese encyclopaedia. It includes a categorisation system for animals, the sub-divisions of which are as follows: belonging to the emperor; embalmed; tame; sucking pigs; sirens; fabulous; stray dogs; included in the present classification; frenzied; innumerable; drawn with a very fine camel-hair brush; etcetera; having just broken a water pitcher; that from a long way off look like flies.

We shall be interested to receive equally relevant lists, to categorise people, machines, books, television programmes or any other sub-class of modern life that you feel would benefit from a good classification scheme. Suggestions should be sent to: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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