The Weasel: 'Coral calcium costs pounds 29.50 for six weeks' supply, but some people swear by it.' The same, of course, can be said for drinking one's own urine

Contrary to appearances, the Weasel is not on holiday. You see me hacking out a new career for myself, as a provider of patent medicines.

According to a window-display at my local chemist, "coral calcium", a mineral culled from reefs found only around the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Tokunoshima, performs wonders. Arthritis, osteoporosis and ulcers all quail before its "astonishing healing powers", as do nasty headaches.

There's more. An article from the Daily Mail confirms that it "is being said to possess amazing healing properties". Apparently "enthusiasts say it protects and strengthens the immune system, reducing the risk of chronic complaints such as heart disease, arthritis and multiple sclerosis." For some reason, the words "Believe it or not!" have been omitted.

Of course, every miracle has a price. "It's pounds 29.50 for six weeks' supply," warned the white-coated assistant, who was strangely unwilling to vouch for its efficacy. "Some people swear by it," she said. The same, of course, can be said for drinking one's own urine, but I took away a leaflet.

The gritty elixir comes as a kind of tea bag. You need two a day, each dunked in one-and-a-half litres of delicious tap-water. However, "a further one or two Coral bags should be used in all liquids during the day, for example, tea, coffee, alcohol, fruit juice and even soup!"

When it is not purifying your bodily fluids, the stuff even does wonders for supermarket wine: "It actually improves the quality and dramatically reduces the after-effects!" The pounds 29.50 pack lasts six weeks, but only if you only take the minimum two bags a day. If you are also putting at least one bag into everything you drink, as recommended, you could easily be doing ten a day. Which means your six-week pack would last eight-and-a-half days.

In a year, you'd need 42 such packs, costing more than pounds 1,200 in total, although no doubt you could get a quantity discount. For that, you could get a rather nice snorkelling holiday in Japan, should you feel so inclined, where you could hack away at your own reef.

Not that such vandalism is encouraged. This "coral calcium" makes itself available by dropping to the ocean floor, where cheerful Japanese workers gently gather it. But will that be enough? The health faddists of Britain know no restraint. The world is already being stripped of every last Evening Primrose, and the Morning Primroses and Mid-Afternoon Primroses will surely follow. As for Royal Jelly, I suspect we may soon be down to Minor Aristocratic Jelly.

But if the world wants coral, that is what it shall have. As the inventor of "The Secret of Vigour, Tono-Bungay" puts it, in H G Wells's remarkably prescient novel, "After all, there's no harm in the stuff - and it may do good." And so it may.

A friend of the Weasel's was recently invited to take part in a charity quiz competition, as part of a small but perfectly balanced team of fact enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, between receiving the call and actually attending the event, things had gone badly wrong. The couple who formed the nucleus of the team had split up.

And what was the purpose of the charity in question? To provide relationship advice.

Life as a former spy has its indignities. Consider the case of Oleg Gordievski.

Once he was a top man in the KGB (or was he?). Then he experienced a profound disillusionment with the Soviet system (or did he?). Next he started working for us (or did he?), popping up with a warning to the West to tone down the anti-Soviet rhetoric because the Kremlin was convinced we were about to nuke them, when we weren't (or were we?). And then he arrived in Britain to enjoy a well-earned retirement (or was it?).

Unfortunately, an espionage pension only goes so far, and that means the old spook has been popping up on chat shows to promote his extremely imaginative autobiography. Recently he appeared as unwitting straight man for Frank Skinner.

According to the Weasel's own spies, not all of this epoch-making encounter made it on to the screen. The KGB man was asked for a joke, and duly obliged. An American agent in the Soviet Union is having trouble finding anything out, and consults one of his Russian helpers for advice. "I speak perfect Russian, don't I?" he asks. "Yes," comes the reply. "I go where Russians go, don't I?" "Yes." "And I live the Russian way, don't I?" "Yes, of course." "So why can't I get anyone to talk to me?" he asked. "Because you're black."

Sadly, this entirely accurate account of Russian prejudice was not deemed suitable for the sensitive souls who watch BBC2. It seems Gordievsky still has one or two things to learn about the West.

Is there anything more jolly than an English village en fete? Only an inner-city suburb breaking into joyous celebrations.

Come with me to the ancient township of Lewisham, situated at the confluence of the Ravensbourne and Quaggy rivers, where the old Dover Road crosses the high road to Bromley, as mentioned in the television version of Pride & Prejudice.

Here the civic authorities have spent most of the decade enhancing the area's heritage of loveliness by building outside the bunker-like shopping centre the largest and least interesting urban piazza since the invention of the paving stone. Around this masterpiece runs a miniature motorway.

To show their human side, however, the planners have moved the town's one landmark, a clock tower, to a new position of prominence (outside the Early Learning Centre) and invested in a popular artwork: an enormous wedge of white rocks, dumped in the middle of a new roundabout.

So baffling is this edifice, a sort of custom-built prehistoric relic in Portland stone, that the council has had to issue a leaflet to explain it. Sadly, this may prove a rather forlorn hope. "The triangular 'ends' of the work are aligned to True North," says a handout. "The Eastern end (nearest to the library) indicates the highest angle of the sun. Whereas the Western end reflects the Winter Solstice." And so on, all of it good news for lost druids, but less appealing in a borough which has been closing playschemes to save money.

Recently these improvements were marked by "Coming Alive!", a week-long outbreak of spontaneous inner-city joy that must have been months in the planning.

All races, creeds, colours, sexes, ages, degrees of talent and sexual orientations were provided, including several Christmas fairies in heavy stubble, leather caps and the kind of moustaches favoured in Old Compton Street.

Sadly, the council had not quite managed to ensure that the work was actually finished, leaving steel bands, Morris dancers, aliens on stilts and eastern European folk ensembles and the rest to perform amidst the rubble. As soon as they were gone, the builders began again. The scheme is called "Lewisham 2000", which must have seemed pleasantly remote when it began, back in the mists of time. Perhaps "Lewisham 2010" might have been more prudent

Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine, wrote a blog post attacking the app and questioning its apparent 'strong Christian bias'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Leading light: Sharma in London

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
News
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
books
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
art
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
film
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
TV
News
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
books
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
music
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
music
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
    Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

    Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
    The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

    The US is getting frayed at the edges

    Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
    Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

    New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

    A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
    Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
    Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

    Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

    Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
    Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

    Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

    He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
    How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

    Celebrating 100 years of Leica

    A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world