"When crushing digestive biscuits to make the base of a cheesecake," advises Elaine Bisco, "a rugby ball can be very useful if no rolling pin is available." It also comes in handy, she claims, in smoothing out mole- hills on rugby grounds.

"The influence of rugby on fine artists throughout the ages is well known," writes Mark Walmsley, "from the days of Pieter Brueghel the elder (The Scrum, 1565) and Juan Sanchez Cotan (Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Jockstrap, c.1600). Picasso's Grand Homme en Tout Noir is thought to have been painted during a brief visit to Cardiff during his cubist period ..."

He is politely interrupted by Mollie Caird: "Research has revealed that as many as 30 aggressive, overweight males can be rendered harmless to the public by placing this totemic object on a large field between two rudimentary wooden altars. The significance of its ovoid shape - clearly indicative of female potency - has yet to be fully explained by anthropologists."

"... Picasso's actual participation in the game," continues Mr Walmsley, "was curtailed, it is thought, by a sudden, painful meeting with a dairy farmer playing at fly half, and the long-term trauma of this event can be seen in the Surrealist period..."

Suffolk farmers pay good prices for old rugby footballs, says Philip Jaggard. "Placed under laying hens they are thought to encourage larger eggs." Paint it white for an imitation ostrich egg, says Paul Clark. He also suggests squashing it into a sphere and using it as a football, but he cannot think of any use for a football.

Derek Newson uses his rugby ball cut in half widthways as two Gucci watermelon bowls, or lengthways as matching banana split dishes, or unsliced as "ideal leather jackets for obese Hell's Angel bananas".

"Use a rugby ball as a portable seat because it will fit the contours of your bum," advises Claire Paul, who has tested it and found a perfect fit. Georgina Herbert sees it rather as a "more humane Polynesian ritual deflowering implement."

"Paint them yellow," says Des Waller, "and enter them for a giant lemon competition." "If you squash each end and make it into a sphere," says Stephen Woodward, "you can paint it yellow and pretend it's the moon, at least on cloudy nights when you can't see the real one." He also suggests that the roughly spherical squashed ball might allow the invention of a new game in which you aren't allowed to pick it up and run with it. "Deflated as pitta bread," says M Peart, "if you're desperate for something to eat."

"...His disaffection turned to satire in the grotesquely bloated torsoes of the caricatures of the 1940s," Mark Walmsley drones on in the background, "but the return to a feeling of idyllic paganism ..."

"Balanced on a smooth surface," continues Stephen Woodward, it serves as an earthquake detector." Or a glass one would make a novel goldfish bowl. Or another glass one would make a slightly less novel goldfish bowl.

"One of my favourite hobbies," says Suzanne Sophia Smith, "is nude sport". She likes ice-skating best but thinks that rugby balls might be miniaturised "for those intimate ladies' moments".

We cannot claim to understand, unless she's thinking on similar lines to Nicholas James's suggestion of suppositories for Tyrannosaurus Rexes.

Child substitutes for broody ostriches, suggests Lance Railton. Training devices for virgin ostriches in egg-laying, advises F G Robinson. Among his other ideas are heavier than air dirigibles for small beings with a fear of flying, Madonna leather-kit, re-usable coconuts for coconut shies, a change from the normal lottery balls, and testicles for leather Colossi.

"Show one to the Welsh rugby XV to remind them what it looks like," suggests R J Pickles. Or, more charitably, coat them in chocolate and distribute to young rugby players as Easter presents. "Kiss it," advises Errol Robathan, "and see if it turns into a handsome soccer ball."

"... etc. etc. etc." ends Mark Walmsley, but not before pointing out the value of rugby balls to introduce an element of randomness and a demonstration of the unpredictability on non-linear relationships to the game of basketball. Prizes to Mark Walmsley, F G Robinson and Georgina Herbert.

Next week we shall be deconstructing the recent utterances of Eric Cantona and offering a selection of new Cantonisms. Meanwhile, we should like to draw your attention to the recent change in VAT Notice 701/37/94: Live animal,which announces the zero-rating of live ostriches as fertilised ostrich eggs. It goes on to say: "However, ostrich feathers, ostrich skin leather and other parts of the bird not used for human consumption or animal feed remain standard-rated."

We accordingly seek uses for all or part of an ostrich or ostriches. Ideas, the three best of which will earn Chambers Dictionaries, should be sent to: Creativity, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, to arrive by 26 April.

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