It's funny how quickly, given the right circumstances, you can be lathered in sweat. When I reached the departures board, I was dripping more than my shellfish

The Weasel
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The Independent Culture
This is the great age of tinkering. Nothing can be left well alone, even if it has worked perfectly serviceably for years. The latest example to spring to my attention is the little railway timetables given away to London commuters. In the case of our local line, this handy aide-memoire has recently undergone a radical "re-think", which has reduced its size by two-thirds while increasing the number of stations listed from 16 to 24. At the same time, the lists of tiny numerals have been overlaid by murky colour tones which renders them far harder to read. The mystification induced by the new format is reminiscent of the feelings of vertiginous confusion which overwhelmed me when obliged to tangle with logarithmic tables in maths lessons.

In a final touch of idiocy, one corner of the timetable has been given over to a colour photo of a young male commuter, tautly grinning in a self-satisfied fashion amid a crush of lost souls. I fancy it is the designer, chortling at the obfuscation he has inflicted on the rail users of south London.

Similarly, the indicator boards at the capital's major termini have suddenly been infested by all manner of colourful logos and advertisements for credit card companies. The gung-ho sprigs who manage our new rail companies appear to be unfamiliar with the concept that "less is more" - excepting, of course, in the provision of services. Swept up by the ceaseless urge to titivate, they have somehow forgotten the need for clarity.

The supreme importance of this last quality was forcibly impressed on me a few years ago by a disturbing experience I had at the Gare du Nord in Paris. After a somewhat protracted stay with my French friends, I arrived in plenty of time for the last train to London (this was well before the arrival of the wonderful Eurostar). Glancing up at the board, I was surprised that it was due to leave slightly later than I thought. Excellent, I thought, plenty of time to snap up a couple of dozen huitres from one of the large brasseries opposite the station. Returning with my bag of bivalves, I was a little perplexed to find no train at the designated platform. Nor were there many Anglais waiting to cross the Channel.

However, somewhat to my relief, a train soon arrived and disgorged its passengers. Curiously, however, there was little encouragement to get on-board. I hung around on the concourse, gazing at my luggage and my fruits de mer. Better check the time of the train again, I thought, and had another gander at the board. Yep, everything was fine. But for some reason, I looked a little higher on the board and noticed the single word: "ARRIVEES". The implications took a moment to sink in.

It's funny how quickly, given the right circumstances, you can be lathered in sweat. By the time I reached the departures board - which looked exactly the same as the arrivals display - and found the right platform, I was dripping more than my shellfish. Needless to say, the London train was on its way out of the station. Turning up once more at my friends' apartment, I thought I detected a certain froideur in their reception. "D'accord," they shrugged, when I asked if I could stay another night. "Non," they didn't want any oysters.

In view of the Prime Minister's laudable - if faintly bizarre - decision to return the Stone of Scone to Auld Reekie, it is worth bearing in mind that London possesses a second mystical rock. Known as the London Stone, this chunk of limestone resides in a niche on Cannon Street. According to the London Encyclopaedia, it probably started out as a Roman funerary ornament and has been in much the same location since at least 1198, when a document refers to the "Lonenstane". Its significance can be judged from the fact that in 1450 the Kentish rebel Jack Cade struck the stone with his sword when he declared himself "Lord of the City". Suitably dressed, this acclaimed slab could be used to plug the unsightly aperture which will appear in the Coronation Throne following the departure of the "Stone of Destiny" to Scotland.

But on second thoughts, there is much to be said for leaving the London Stone in its present exhaust-shrouded location. Sharing its niche with an unappealing assemblage of empty Coke tins, fast-food wrappers and fag- ends, the stone sums up much about the state of modern Britain. Nor is its site entirely inappropriate, as the international standing of the UK shrivels to negligibility in comparison to the Tiger economies of the Far East. The building which has custody of this ancient symbol of London is the Bank of China.

A leading estate agency is making much of the fact that a Cornish property on its books has a close connection with DH Lawrence. As an inducement to potential purchasers of Lower Tregerthan, a granite farm house near Zennor, it points out that Lawrence lived for 20 months in a nearby cottage at Higher Tregerthan. Considering the languid state of the property market, I suppose that any famous association will be fully exploited for its sales potential, but, personally, I would have been inclined to keep schtum about the link with the beardy bard.

For one thing, Lawrence rented his property for pounds 5 a year. Admittedly that was in 1916, but it might make prospective buyers scratch their chins about the pounds 350,000 price-tag for Lower Tregerthan. (The same sum would have enabled Lawrence to live in his humbler lodgings for 70,000 years.)

Furthermore, we learn from The Married Man, Brenda Maddox's recent biography of the writer, that Higher Tregerthan was "a misery... the walls ran wet with damp". When Lawrence persuaded a pair of fellow writers, Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry to move in next door, they only stuck it out for six weeks.

In addition, the brusque reception given to Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, by the local community scarcely adds to the appeal of the district. When it became known that she was first cousin to the dreaded "Red Baron", the Lawrences were hounded out of Cornwall. Not that the author's behaviour did much to cement relations in the neighbourhood. At that time, he was undergoing a phase of sexual experimentation (particularly involving the young farmer who owned the house currently on sale) and inclined to invite men for a "German blood rite on the moors".

In any case, such was his peripatetic life-style that Lawrentian links are scarcely a rarity around the world. Not long ago, I was strolling down a country lane near Lerici in northern Italy, when I came across a pleasant dwelling with a distinctly un-Latin name, "La Casa DH Lawrence". Shortly afterwards, when touring the western states of the US, I was driving along an isolated road near Taos, New Mexico, when I saw a sign for a habitation with an even more unlikely appellation, "The DH Lawrence Ranch". Enough, already. I think the Weasel family will steer well clear of Zennor this summer.

Like many other hacks, I have a soft spot for the Apple computer and keep rooting for this user-friendly gizmo in its on-going war against the PC. However, there are a couple of things about the company which give me qualms. One long-standing grizzle is: why does the Apple logo have its rainbow colours in the wrong order? The useful mnemonic "Richard Of York Gained Battles In Vain", becomes "Gained York Of Richard Vain Battles" (there's no "In"). Even more worrying is the address of Apple HQ in Cupertino, California. How much faith can you place in a company which is happy to reside at "1 Infinite Loop"?

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