The Weasel

As played by the cream of the nation's women, football becomes once more a thing of beauty. The goalkeeper rolls the ball out to the defenders' feet, whence it is played upfield in a style that is Continental in its elegance
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The trials and tribulations of those Hampshire schoolgirls who were unhappy at being forced to play rugby (thought it was unladylike or some such nonsense), should not obscure the inroads women are making into what have previously been men's sports.

Recently the Weasel attended a women's football match, featuring the all-conquering Arsenal side. Traditionally, this is the moment to bring in Dr Johnson's musings on the resemblance between women preaching and dogs walking on their hind legs, but you won't find any of that in this column.

As played by the cream of the nation's women, the game becomes once more a thing of beauty, as dreamed of by Plato (you've read the Republic and the Symposium, but have you read his neglected masterpiece, Terrace?). The bouts of head-tennis that so deface the men's game are notable by their absence. And because of the better marriage between the strength of competitors, the lightness of the ball and the size of the pitch, you don't find the ball hoofed aimlessly from one goalmouth to the other. Instead, the goalkeeper rolls it out to the defenders' feet, whence it is played upfield in a style that is Continental in its elegance.

On the few occasions where it leaves the ground, it is smoothly brought back down on elegant instep or silken thigh, and normal play resumes.

So attractive is this that you wonder why anyone persists in watching the men's game. I am still recovering from overhearing a fan at a Premier League match shout at a fellow spectator "Watch your ****ing language, you ****! I'm here with my ****ing kids."

The contrast with the game as played by the women (or Ladies, as they term themselves), couldn't be more acute. At one point the frustrated goalkeeper of the losing Manchester United side was heard to mutter a panicky expletive. "I beg your pardon?" came a nannyish inflection from the stands. Not that there were many calls from the stands. Total attendance couldn't have been more than 60. But these few faithfuls are ready for the future, when the women's game may be the only one left to watch, at least on terrestrial television. That nice Mr Murdoch has bought everything else.

Arsenal, by the way, won 10-0, a creditable result for a side still rebuilding itself after the loss of its top striker. She's on maternity leave.

The great cyberporn controversy continues. The thought of innocent children playing with daddy's computer and accidentally downloading pictures of people engaged in acts of intimacy with farm animals has galvanised the giant commercial "on-line" systems of America into action - to ban anything with sexual connotations.

Recently America On Line (AOL), one of the biggest services, decided to introduce a list of "vulgar expressions deemed to be offensive" that would be electronically searched and destroyed. Among them was the word "breast".

Sadly, this played havoc with one of the service's more worthwhile areas, a discussion group for breast cancer sufferers. One of its contributors, with typically American understatement, called the purge "outrageous and potentially life-threatening". AOL has now given the word the all-clear. Censorship can be a tricky business.

The news that Oxford city council is considering a scheme to build a lift to carry tired cyclists uphill has been the subject of considerable jeering. Headington Hill is hardly the Himalayas, after all, more a longish slope.

Still, the Department of the Environment has pounds 2million on offer for schemes that will encourage cycling, so no one can blame the council for trying. Its proposed lift will only cost pounds 200,000, which leaves plenty of money for more sensible schemes.

But what should these schemes be? How do you encourage people to take to two wheels, when anyone of sound mind knows that to do so is to risk asthma, abuse from pedestrians, the eternal enmity of motorists and the possibility of a close encounter with the rear wheels of a 40-tonne articulated truck? Two million pairs of free cycle-clips?

Like every other furry creature of a certain age, I have been glued to the box on Sunday nights watching the unfolding history of the Beatles.

Fascinating though some of this stuff is, it is hard not to see it as history by committee. And sometimes the allocation of screen time seems bizarre. For instance, the other evening many valuable minutes were spent recounting the non-story of the Beatles' rather unsuccessful gigs in Paris. But then we suddenly jumped to them having a number one record in America and being mobbed at the airport. Clearly, the story of the Beatles in America is more complicated than that. Could they perhaps have something to hide?

One of the established truths of Beatlology is that the mop-headed Liverpudlians swept America during the orgy of national self-loathing following the assassination of John F Kennedy. This is always described as a lucky coincidence. But was it?

A close examination of the historical record shows a remarkable sequence of events. On 19 November, 1963, the Beatles were first seen by the American television audience, in an ABC news item on their British success. On 21 November, 1963, the day before the assassination, they appeared on the CBS evening news, in a special feature composed of concert footage shot in Bournemouth and a post-gig interview.

The next day the president was shot, and the Beatles, fresh in people's minds, were immediately clutched to the hearts of the American nation.

As it happens, the boys themselves have a cast-iron alibi. On the day of the assassination they were performing at the Globe Cinema in Stockton- On-Tees. But what of Brian Epstein, their secretive manager? He had plenty of time on his hands to take a trip to Dallas and hook up with another loner, Lee Harvey Oswald. He also made a number of extraordinary deals with American businessmen, giving away the Beatles' lucrative merchandising rights in return for who knows what favours.

It would be nice to know Epstein's version of events, but he is, of course, no longer with us, silenced forever by a mysterious drug overdose not long afterwards. It makes you think.

What a pity Oliver Stone has already given us his view of these events in JFK: as plot-lines go, this would seem well up to his usual standard.

I hope no one shopping for Christmas presents for the children is tempted by an unpleasant object I have recently seen on sale.

The "Weasel-ball" is apparently designed to amuse. It features a plastic ball, about the size of an orange, with a rather apologetic-looking length of ginger fluff attached to it. The ball has some kind of electrical motor concealed inside it. Once switched on, it lurches around erratically, all the while dragging the strip of fur, which wiggles animatedly. To the childish observer, however, it looks exactly as if the "weasel" (which bears no great resemblance to the noble beast you see on these pages) is doing the pushing.

"What's the harm?" I hear you say. None at all, probably, but it's hard not to see the poor furry pseudo-weasel's plight as symbolic.

Perhaps I'm being over-sensitive, but what this thing says to me is this: you think you're in charge of your own life, when all along you're being led by the nose. There is plenty of time for children to learn that lesson in later life

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