More worrying, though, is the news about the mugger bees. Scientists in Japan report that there's a species of honeybee which sees off its deadly rival, a predatory giant hornet, by standing very close to it until it combusts. Honest. According to Nature magazine, scientists used to watch 500 bees mobbing an intrusive hornet, and assumed they must be stinging it to death. But they weren't. They were crushing in on it, until they'd raised its body temperature to a hornet-toasting 47 degrees.
It was, I think, John Keats who used to boast about his capacity to enter the thought-processes of a sparrow hopping on a window sill. I like to think I share this kind of empathy with dumb creatures. But how can one find a meaningful analogy for what it's like to be, one moment, a large and predatory figure, fit and spectacularly bulky and capable of killing scores of opponents in seconds, and, the next, a nervous, slightly pathetic ex-predator, standing aghast as 500 nasty little stripey figures, humming with intent, start closing in on you, eyes blazing, feelers at their sides, drawing nearer and gradually turning up the heat around you until it becomes unbearable ...
Ah yes, I know. Will Carling.
The modern mania for "intellectual property" knows no limits. Recently, you will recall, someone copyrighted a prime number. Then Coca-Cola made history by trade-marking the first three-dimensional object, its famous curvaceous bottle. Now, though, a British building society has gone beyond that. It has sought to trademark a gesture. Henceforth, the tapping of the side of the nose that says "Mark my words" or "Know what I mean?" will be the property of the Derbyshire Building Society.
No doubt readers will have their own feelings about which gesture might best represent the attitude of most building societies at this time in the housing market. It isn't that one, however.
Unlike the southern Europeans, with their excitable hand-waving, and the Yanks with all that finger-extending stuff, we are not a society rich in gesture, and to lose what little we have, at the behest of a commercial organisation, seems nothing short of a disaster.
My understanding of the 1994 Trade Marks Act is that it covers any sign capable of being represented graphically, but specifically excludes "any signs or indications which have become customary in the current language", which would seem to include nose-tapping. The Registrar of Trade Marks doesn't seem to have taken the same view and the mark has been accepted for registration.
Those who wish to continue to assert the traditional British freedom to tap noses, or indeed, any other bodily part, have three months to write a letter of objection to the Registrar of Trade Marks before registration is confirmed. Be warned, anyone mistakenly using the gesture in connection with their own advertising could face a jail sentence.
Friends of the Weasel will be standing by to see if he will finally succumb to a nervous breakdown when the contents of Weasel Villa, including Mrs W and her brood, re-locate to SE21 next month.
At present, I am floundering in a mass of paperwork, searches, tenders, deeds, covenants and a whole lexicon of new words for bits of roof and environs ("flashings"? "rainwater goods"?). Thank goodness I can unload so much on a charming solicitor who will ring large public corporations on my behalf and deal with their briskly efficient public affairs departments. Like, say, Railtrack.
A simple question, really: since there's a railway line at the bottom of my new garden, I wondered if there were any plans to run more trains on it in the near future (rather a crucial enquiry, I'd have thought). So my solicitor wrote to Railtrack. Back came what she described as "the most unhelpful letter that I have ever received".
There is, it (or Ms Tracy Rose, the External Relations Assistant) said, "no statutory basis for response by Railtrack plc in respect of such enquiries", ie we don't have to help you. Yes, they were "a track authority", they admitted (you wanna make something of it?), and it was their job to authorise the use of the railway line by the train authorities, but that didn't mean they knew what these authorities had planned, ie we're not going to find out just for you. And lastly, they thought "it may not be readily practicable to identify all prospective railway works which could take place in this vicinity", ie oh go away and stop bothering us... But there was a silver lining. Feeling perhaps they weren't offering quite enough in the advice department, Railtrack said at one point: "For current passenger train usage, the published timetable is of course available". So they do have a sense of humour after all.
That enduring symbol of the technological revolution, the Post Office Tower, is 30 years old on Monday. To those of us who grew up in the Sixties, studying the exploded diagrams in Look & Learn, watching Cliff Michelmore trying to track Telstar and building plastic models of the Hawker Hunter, the tower was a symbol of great prospects built on British ingenuity.
Harold Wilson conducted the glittering opening ceremony, with a guest- list which included postmasters general galore, including the incumbent, Anthony Wedgewood Benn. Catering was by Sir Billy Butlin, who had been awarded the concession to run the revolving restaurant at the top: presumably everyone present liked chips.
Sadly, British Telecom, which now owns the tower, is too busy persuading us that it is "good to talk" and to "work smarter not harder" to have noticed the birthday. I had hoped that they might take the restaurant for a spin to mark the occasion. But despite the easing of the terrorist threat, the restaurant will stay closed: having had it blown up once, in 1973, nobody wants to take the chance again. Even BT staff going there for routine meetings get the full treatment, including having to run their hands over a gelignite detector.
I notice, however, that these concerns do not preclude BT from using the revolving restaurant for its own internal events. How strangely typical.
Euphemism of the week came from a man in Florida called George Burgess, who produces the International Shark Attack file. A diver had gone missing, and a shredded diving suit found. "We prefer to call most of these incidents 'interactions' rather than attacks," said a spokesman on behalf of the sharks, "because they are cases of mistaken identity when a shark is going after a meal ..."Reuse content