The Weasel : Like policemen, the Basils and Ruperts who command Britain's forces are getting younger all the time: some of the ones who crop up on the News seem barely familiar with shaving

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The Independent Culture
I fear for the future of the British Army - not so much in Bosnia, where it seems to be covering itself in the quiet glory that is its forte, but here at home. One minute it is closing down regiments and laying off soldiers left, right, left, right and centre: the next it is advertising for new recruits.

The current advertising campaign features a group of worried-looking young men in camouflage, running with a stretcher across the kind of hostile terrain you normally find only in car commercials. On the stretcher lies a wounded comrade, groaning in agony and sporting a nasty leg wound. Suddenly, the heroes arrive at the edge of a chasm so wide that even Evel Knievel would have required a change of underwear. "What are you thinking?" grates the caption.

Well, what I was thinking was: why is this powerful, indeed frightening commercial popping up at 7.05am on Channel 4, directly between Sesame Street and Ovide, the adventures of a blue French cartoon duck with an American accent and a classical moniker. What happened? Did they run out of adverts for Polly Pocket?

Like policemen, the Basils and Ruperts who command Britain's forces are getting younger all the time: some of the ones who crop up on the News seem barely familiar with shaving. But it still seems a bit much that they should trawl for modern cannon fodder among the ranks of the short- trousered. My only reassurance is that most of the children watching the commercial probably take it for an episode of Power Rangers, but less violent.

Weird news from the terraces. A friend of the Weasel's with a mile-wide masochistic streak attends football matches every other Saturday, and has made a special study of footballing chants. No structured yells of "One-nil! Wuh-huh-hun nil!", no call-and-response antiphon of "Zigger zagger zigger zagger/Oi! oi! oi!", no humorously bitchy allusions to John Fashanu's gay sibling ("Score with yer brother/You couldn't score with yer brother...") get past his gimlet surveillance. But lately he's been startled by a new development. Instead of the blank hostility that usually surrounds him in the stands, the usual effing and blinding at visiting supporters, the fans have taken to smiling a lot, clutching each other by the arm to make a tactical point, dancing and swaying on the spot in high-energy glee. And the chanting has changed. Now they sing effusive variants of "We love you! We love you!", and make urgently expansive gestures at the far-off sportsmen across the pitch.

What has happened? "Ecstacy," my friend was told. "The price has come down to pounds 10 a tab, and lots of the fans do it just before the match and spend two hours with a happiness rush. And of course, if a goal goes in - well, it's Paradise on a plate, innit?" Let us hope this dubious habit doesn't extend to the players on the field. Things are bad enough at Stamford Bridge without having Denis Wise tell Ruud Gullit, "You're so...so...you're such a warm person, aren't you?"

When feeling particularly gloomy I like nothing more than to immerse myself in the legendarily unreadable magazine Wired, which cheers me up with its blood-curdling predictions of a world in which people cook up human DNA in glorified microwave ovens, giant televisions hang on every flat surface and each newborn child has a personal telephone (though nobody has a job).

This month's issue surpasses itself. It sports the memorable cover-line, is the enclyclopaedia britannica obsolete? Quite possibly. But the Concise Oxford Dictionary still has its uses.

How I love Boots the Chemist. The distinctive pharmaceutical tang in the air, the highly trained, white-coated scientists, the cunningly packaged folk remedies for those ailments left unmoved by modern biochemistry.

You somehow know that Jesse Boot, the great philanthropist, lay preacher and enlightened employer, would have approved of the way his heirs are running the old firm. I'm not sure, however, that he would have been all that amused by a curious discussion I heard in my local branch the other day. From her station at the check-out, a flaxen-haired temptress in her early twenties was handing out advice, Claire Rayner-style, to an earringed and greasy-complexioned youth in his late teens. Normally, I would not have listened, but the volume at which the conversation was conducted left me with little choice.

"This is a good one for you to try," began the uniformed Siren. "Look, I've done a drawing. She lies on her side like this, and you come up behind her like this". This description, however, was not explicit enough for the youth, so she took a couple of pens off the top of her till and began manipulating them in a way that would have made Dr Biro take up another line of work.

"I don't get it," said the youth, another shining example of the National Curriculum at work. "I don't want to do anything that's going to give me a bad back." "No, it won't," continued his instructor, in tones that suggested Juliet Stevenson doing a sanpro commercial. "It's like a couple of spoons in a drawer. In fact, I think that's what it's called, Spoons." Upon which the youth wandered off, his little face frowning as he pondered the Earthly Delights ahead of him.

I don't think Jesse Boot would have approved. From what I recall, he didn't even like his female employees playing hockey.

Forget Cedric Brown. Crispin Odey, a mature 36, was paid pounds 19.5million last year by his own company, Odey Asset Management. Admittedly, much of that pounds 19.5million is profit, rather than salary, and last year was a particularly good year; the year before, he'd had to somehow struggle by on pounds 2.8million.

"The money gives me a degree of freedom," he says, airily. "It allows me to go out and buy something if I want it." (Something like a footballer, or a light aircraft, perhaps.) But what exactly does Odey Asset Management do? Answer: it invests funds in public companies, for instance British Gas. Anyone who wonders why the private monopolies are able to pay their managers so handsomely need not look too far for an answer. The fund managers, who pull their strings, are hardly going to stop them.

This is the time of year when thousands of eager would-be students trot along to the first sessions of a new evening class, only to drop out two weeks later when something interesting comes on TV.

Like everyone else, the Weasel has been scanning the prospectuses of some of his local ivory towers. What is it to be? Norwegian Language, Life and Culture? Advanced Astrology?

What is sad is that there is nothing specifically for me. Me, as a Weasel. That seems very unfair, when every other group is catered for so efficiently. So I've had to adapt a genuine blurb that I saw for someone else's course, to give the educational authorities an idea of the kind of things that I am looking for.

I call it: "Weasels' Writing (for weasels only)." And this is what the blurb would say. "This course is designed for weasels who are interested in writing from a weasel perspective, or who simply would prefer to share their work with other weasels." What a pity I'm only a small furry creature, and not something shy and retiring and in need of being patronised: a woman for instance

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