"A husband," the story reported, "has filed for divorce after accusing his wife of conducting an affair via computer e-mail with a man called `The Weasel'." Sordid details followed, of an unconsummated union, saucy electronic badinage, secret assignations, projected trysts in New Hampshire, bed and breakfast... The report ended, "The man, whose on-line name was The Weasel, was identified only as Ray from north Carolina".
Hah! Ray from north Carolina, whoever he is, can take a flying kick at the moon. He fools nobody with his pathetic attempt to muscle in on my new-found fame as a swordsman of the boudoir. Now it's in the papers, I'd better confess that yes, I, Valentino Weasel, have for years been a serial heartbreaker. Like my illustrious ancestor Casanova Weasellotti, I have loved not wisely but too well. Lord Byron in his precision-tool prime, Warren Beatty in his bonker's bouffant, Sinatra in his priapic glory are as mewling schoolboys leafing through a copy of Titbits by comparison with my exploits d'amour. Yes, yes (I lay a cooling forearm against my impassion'd brow) it's all true: I've starred in more bedrooms than Osborne & Little.
Mrs W is aghast at the news. She is lying down with a cambric square soaked in 4711 over her streaming eyes and is not speaking to me. How can she resolve the dogged and kindly suburbanite who takes in the milk in the morning, with the opera-cloaked, honey-tongued, Mates-festooned Lothario at whose tiniest whispered suggestion married women in New Hampshire throw caution to the winds and clamber into unfeasibly small knickers prior to shedding them in plyboard motels? She thought she'd married Gerald Durrell; she woke up with Alan Clark.
I started small. A sonnet sequence here, a bunch of arctic violets there and the neighbours' wives were putty in my paws. I graduated to inexpensive restaurants and Butler & Wilson bijoux, and the ladies on the Neighbourhood Watch Committee came across at a surprising rate. Tickets to Me and My Girl usually guaranteed a result with the daughters of my Rotarian confreres, though it took a weekend in Chewton Glen to part my local MP from her frilled Sloggis. It was all, in other words, getting too damn expensive. How could I maintain my erotic strike rate without going bankrupt? Then I hit on the solution: computers.
Anyone who's ever worked in a networked office knows the incendiary passions of the messaging system, on which supposedly businesslike exchanges are rapidly replaced by innuendo-salted impertinence and people flirt more boldly with each other than they would down the telephone, more privately than down the fax line and more deliciously than they'd ever do face to face. It was stroke of genius for the Internet chaps to turn this in-house bonker's telly into an international electronic sex market.
Now my secret's out, the floodgates will open. My screen will be filled for weeks with double entendres from around the world, with brazen speculations and invitations to lunch. The air above Weasel Villas will hum with pheremonal urgency. And to think that, 4,000 miles away, some wilting loser called Ray will still be trying to pinch all the credit...
Computers can do a lot for your seduction skills, but they can't, apparently, find a conclusion to the Great Pi Question and put out of their misery those bizarre obsessives dedicated to its pursuit. You may remember that pi is something to do with calculating the dimensions of a circle and derives from dividing 22 by seven, a sum that can be continued infinitely.
Most folks are happy to leave the solution at 3.14 but last week Yasumasa Kanada, a professor at Tokyo University, announced he had calculated it to a billion decimal places on a supercomputer. To say this is surplus to requirements is putting it mildly. Calculating the circumference of a perfect circle the size of the known universe requires only 39 decimal places.
For most of this decade, however, Prof Kanada has been racing against the shadowy Chudnovsky brothers, a pair of Russian expatriates living in New York, to plumb even deeper into the infinity of pi. Supported only by their wives (they both had the good sense to marry lawyers), David and Gregory Chudnovsky were the first to reach a billion decimal places, in 1989. They managed this by using clumps of microchips, cooled by electric fans, strewn around their Manhattan apartment. In 1992, after their arch- rival Kanada surged well past the billion point, the brothers induced their Heath Robinson contraption to regurgitate 2.2 billion decimal places. This game of numerical leapfrog between the camps has been going on ever since.
Ah, the vanity of human strivings, the search for the key to the world's secrets! "What," I asked Mrs W, "in your opinion, is the secret of pi?" "Nice thin crust and a touch of cinnamon," she replied. I swear that woman knows something.
With St Valentine's Day looming, I'm getting a little alarmed about my favourite aphrodisiac. I refer, of course, to the oyster, which I consume in abundant quantities on the evening of the 14th to sustain me for the rigours ahead. I am concerned that these succulent bivalves, evocatively described by the American writer Eleanor Clark as a "piercing intuition of the sea and all its weeds and breezes", might not be so efficacious as I'd hoped in the libido department.
The reason is that Angela Browning, Minister of Agriculture, is determined to deprive the oyster of its rest and comfort. She has decided that European rules governing the transportation of live animals need not apply to shellfish. There is, she says heartlessly, no need for the poor things to enjoy rest periods during their journey, or to have their handsome exoskeletons regularly sprayed with water.
This is all very well for the shellfish producers of Colchester, who objected vigorously to the EU directive, but what of the consumer? If the crustacea are all in a tizz, lorry-lagged, out of puff and limp after a stressful journey, what effect will it have on my performance? I have, after all (see above), a certain reputation to maintain.
Though I was sorry to read a few days ago that a flock of seven Great American flamingos in the garden of Buckingham Palace had been scoffed by a fox (it makes a change for the royal family to be on the receiving end of a fox hunt), I found it hard to resist a sneaking glow of pleasure that at least one resident of London has benefited from this private enclave so strenuously denied to the rest of us.
For six years or so, my bus ride to work took me past the palace. From the top deck of the No 38, it is possible to get a good look at the 45 acres of rolling palatial parkland. I discovered that, with the exception of the three days of summer garden parties, this great chunk of central London is completely unused - not just by the general public but by the royal household. Whatever the time of year, it always appeared to be completely empty. Only on one morning was my rubbernecking rewarded when I saw a couple of young men playing a desultory game of tennis in the down- at-heel courts at the Hyde Park Corner end of things. I was too far away to tell if there was an HRH among the players, though one of them displayed a stylish, if underpowered, backhand.
Palace officials, in their usual curmudgeonly way, refused to reveal how Mr Fox had gained access to his pink-plumed snack. It seems unlikely that he grappled his way over the 12-foot surrounding walls, which have been surmounted (since the Michael Fagan incident) by a secret security purchased from Israel. It appears that he slunk in through one of the Palace's several back gates.
If a fox can get in, so can a weasel. Give me a wave from the No 38...