Creativity

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"I have an idea for ostriches," writes James McLaren, "and it's a big one." His plan involves about 700 ostriches, a dozen JCBs and the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. After using the JCBs to take enough sand to fill the hall to a depth of about four feet, you introduce the ostriches, which promptly zero rate themselves for VAT, award themselves a substantial pay rise, and stick their heads in the sand. "This major piece of performance art is entitled `Conservative Party Conference.' I claim my Turner Prize herewith - one night of passion round at Rachel Whiteread's House."

Train-spotters find ostriches useful on crowded stations, claims Maurice Hulks. He goes on to mention an ostrich soft shoe shuffle, can-can and posthorn gallop finale once planned for a Barrymore TV programme, but not broadcast following an injunction from the RSPCA.

David Guest explains how to use an ostrich to help erect a garden fence. After positioning the bird carefully, you creep up behind it and shout "Boo!". The ostrich will bury its head, creating the perfect hole for your fence post. For a long fence, use nave young ostriches.

The ostrich neck, maintains Stephen Woodward, makes a good flagpole for the Ostrian flag, while the ostrich head is useful for stopping rain getting into the ostrich neck. Their feathers, he goes on, make good ostrich feathers.

"Snuff takers," says Michael Rubinstein, are advised always to carry ostrich feathers on their persons so that whenever they run out of snuff they can tickle their noses to provoke a sneeze. Many are thus able to replace a filthy addiction with one that can be manifested with charming gestures." He also points out the use of an ostrich, its neck calibrated in centimetres, to test the quality of sand for the building trade.

Ostrich feathers make quill pens to write Big Lies with, says Lance Railton. Ostriches make mobile hooplas at tyre-throwing contests, says FG Robinson. Or stork substitutes for new-born babies with a fear of flying.

Des Waller recalls a man from Cleethorpes who taught his ostrich to recite large extracts from Shakespeare. "He was exposed as a fraud, however, when it was discovered that the bird was reading from a concealed autocue."

"One of the causes of the decline of the British Empire," says Paul Clark, "was a drop in the supply of ostrich feathers for Viceroys' hats."

"Hardboil an ostrich egg for 45 minutes," says Nick Wright, "and you can make egg sandwiches for a whole rugby tea. Hardboil an ostrich egg for 75 minutes and you have a reserve rugby ball, particularly useful if a passing ostrich has nicked the original, thinking it was one of her eggs."

RJ Pickles suggests that the holes in which ostriches allegedly bury their heads could be transported to new golf courses and putting greens to save the expense of digging.

"I've heard," says Len Clarke, "that an ostrich beak makes a fine set of dentures for a platypus that's lost its front end." He also suggests shortening its legs, pulling a few feathers out and selling it to the ReichsBank as the new EMU.

"I was so worried after writing to you earlier today," writes Maurice Hulks again, "that I had to write to you again." Apparently the RSPB is up in arms over the RSPCA injunction over Barrymore and want it made clear that the ostrich is a bird and outside the RSPCA's ambit. Mr Hulks does, however, think that if BA or Virgin could teach ostriches to fly, they'd have the beating of pigeons or parcel post. Or if that fails, use ostrich genes to genetically engineer some Olympic gold medallists.

Finally, Mark Walmsley sends us a reference to "Ostrich Farming in America", submitted to the Bookseller as a contender for Oddest Title of 1995. But it's not a patch on "Ostrich Egg-shell Cups of Mesopotamia and the Ostrich in Ancient and Modern Times" (Chicago, 1926) from which our illustrations all came.

Prizes to Maurice Hulks, James McLaren and Michael Rubinstein.

Next week, we'll report on beards. Meanwhile we have a problem in child- rearing. A friend recently told us that as a child he was informed by his parents that the tinkly music of ice-cream vans was the tune they play when they have run out of ice-cream. He only discovered the falsity of this information when reaching his teens after an almost entirely ice- cream deprived childhood.

We seek other lies that can usefully be told to children and have three copies of the Larousse Dictionary of Literary Characters for the most valuable fibs. Entries should arrive by 10 May at: Creativity, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5 DL.

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