UP & DOWN CANARY WHARF

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Observe the Weasel experimenting with symmetry, in the manner made famous by Harry Worth. Can you help? Consider my small, glittering eyes: is one, perhaps, a little higher than the other? Do my elegant whiskers match? Are my paws exactly the same size? I feel the need to know, and to know now.

The reason this has become such a burning question in Weasel Villas is some new research, conducted with the very highest scientific rigour, which shows that symmetrical creatures are very much more successful than assymmetrical ones. Particularly in the bed department.

Biologists discovered some time ago that male Japanese scorpion flies with symmetrical wings win more mates than those without. It was noted that, if you chop part of the wings off a male swallow, its sex-life tends to be somewhat blighted. Studies of such laboratory favourites as the female peafowl and the zebra finch revealed a similar visual preference among the female of the species. Female earwigs felt the same way.

Heartened, the researchers pushed their by now vast collection of arthropod beefcake to one side and moved on to the higher animals, and one in particular. It seems that humans like symmetry, too. And not only in their partners' faces. This was revealed when, after taking detailed measurements of the ears, feet, ankles, hands, wrists and elbows of dozens of student volunteers, the researchers asked them a series of impertinent questions about their sex lives.

Those with the most symmetrical bodies began their sex lives three to four years before the lop-sided brigade. The male symmetricists reported anything up to three times as many sexual partners (no proof of happiness in that, of course) as their less favoured brethren.

More bizarrely still, a study of 86 couples in their twenties found that women with symmetrical men experienced orgasm during 75 per cent of their acts of sexual congress. Those shacked up with the less formally perfect reported only a 30 per cent hit ratio. It seems that the simultaneous orgasm, too, is more likely when the man has similarly sized ankles, elbows and ears.

The New Scientist, which reports these early findings in some detail, advances various theories as to why this should be so - something to do with our old friend Selfish Gene and his associate Rampant Id. And very fascinating too.

A bucket of salt has appeared on my desk as I write this, from which I have been taking liberal pinches. Nonetheless, I am worried about the implications. Being asymmetrical is clearly a dereliction of duty. A campaign of serious symmetricisation is urgently necessary. I shall start with the whiskers.

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind," instructed Shakespeare, "thou art not so unkind/As man's ingratitude". How true that is. But as one surveys the current field of ingrates - the vapourings of Hugh Grant at the Bafta Awards, the Eurosceptic Tory MPs who, denied the whip for treachery and allowed back into the fold, promptly debated whether they should bother to accept it - one comes upon an example of mean-spiritedness that tips over into comedy.

Leafing through my copy of CTN magazine, the organ of the confectioners', tobacconists' and newsagents' trade (sub-title: "Your side of the counter"), I learn that the Homeric figure of Fred Gadd is retiring from the shop he has steadfastly managed in the village of Wadhurst, East Sussex, since 1933. No, that was not a misprint. Mr Gadd, now a spry figure of 93 with astonishingly white eyebrows, was flogging fags, sweets and papers when your parents, dear reader, were still in romper suits. He has worked uncomplainingly through a million changes of readerly and comestible fashions: through Reynolds' News, boiled sweets in screw-top jars, cigarette cards, crisp packets with twists of salt, wartime rationing, the advent of chewing gum, Comic Cuts and the Pink 'Un, Park Drive (the schoolboy's first snout, available in packets of five), Sweet Afton, penny chews, Sherbert Dips, the day the Daily Herald turned into the Sun, string liquorice, Jubblys, transistor-radio batteries, Health & Efficiency magazine, Man from UNCLE bubblegum cards, Wagon Wheels, Mivvi - right up to the charming modern days of Asian Babes, lottery tickets, Hello! and Walkman tapes. The nonagenarian Mr Gadd is a walking resource of social history, a national institution, a (saving your presence, Fred) living relic preserved in the amber of Bourneville chocolate and untipped Players.

And what do you think he got as a leaving present? What did his news wholesaler, T Cox & Son of Tonbridge (apparently the only ones to think of giving him anything) bestow on Mr Gadd after his 62 years of faithful service?

They gave him a bottle of sherry.

That wasn't all, though. They told CTN magazine they were "sorry to lose such a loyal customer after so many years in the trade".

Way to go, chaps. Such generosity does you credit. Should the Weasel find himself in East Sussex on your 50th anniversary, he'll come round and bung you, ooh I don't know, a whole bar of Turkish Delight.

Even if Jacques Chirac wins the second round of the French presidential elections, the world will continue to ponder the extraordinary success of Lionel Jospin in the preliminaries. What on earth possessed the French voters to rally behind the charisma-free socialist Jospin - a man for whom the words "stunningly" and "dull" were apparently created - to give him 23 per cent of the ballot, comfortably ahead of the sexy ex-mayor Chirac and the suave M Balladur? It cannot be Jospin's Englishness (the Douglas Hurd hair, the Michael Bentine goofy smile, the John Major delivery). It cannot be his aristocratic chic (unlike the other candidates, he owns neither chateau nor chalet), nor his flamboyance (as Education Minister he makes Gillian Shephard look like Jack Lang) nor his resilience (on losing his seat in the 1993 elections he sulkily announced he was leaving politics for good; but he slunk back). No, it must be something else, something more numinous, that has seduced the floating French voter.

It must, in other words, be the Socks Affair. Nothing has been the same for M Jospin since his lovely second wife Sylviane (they were married only nine months ago) revealed to the press that her husband was in the habit of leaving his dirty socks strewn around the bedroom. I should point out that this revelation did not appear in Le News du Monde or whatever the Gauls call their scandal sheet, but in several reputable newspapers. Nor was it a calculated bit of image-making, judging by the sock-owner's reaction. Confronted on a live radio show by a presenter who quoted Mme Jospin's domestic grumble, the great man said: "Did my wife really talk about socks? I didn't think she would go that far. I mean, I do my share of the housework. I write the cheques. I'll take this up with her tonight."

Whooo-ee. How irresistibly that grumpy domestic note sounds in modern ears. Can you imagine Mr Major promising to "take it up" with Norma about her (unimaginable, I know) indiscretions in the national press? This simple but penetrating insight into the boudoirs of the would-be great has clearly done more to endear M Jospin and his new bride to the hearts of the electorate than any amount of Gaullist hand-wringing.

I fear for the chances of the new London Christian Radio in the vastly overcrowded local radio market. It has not, it seems, got its message across quite yet.

For obscure reasons, the Weasel found himself trying to talk to someone at the station earlier this week. The Radio Authority, which is supposedly in charge of that form of broadcasting, seemed less than informed about the new station. "It's not called that any more," I was told. "It's called Premiere. Or Premier. Or something." Nor were they entirely sure when the station would actually start. "May," was the suggestion. "Or June." Still, they did have a telephone number. "London Christian Radio," said reception, brightly. Then a producer came to the phone - and promptly offered the Weasel the promise (or possibly threat) of an early appearance on one of the new station's dis- cussion programmes. The opportunity to play Devil's advocate was tempting. But given the muscular nature of the station's Christianity, the likelihood would be that I would end up as a lion cast among ferocious Daniels, as Oscar Wilde put it. So I declined.

"Do you have any sort of belief at all?" asked the producer, with what might have been desperation if desperation were not a sin. "I'm not a churchgoer," I confessed. "That's all right," came the rousing response. "We're into Christianity, not Churchianity." Ye Gods.

Luckily, I had an appropriate text to hand, although I didn't say it: "Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be spoken? For ye shall speak into the air" (1 Corinthians 14:9, since you ask).

As it happens, thanks to a helpful little piece of software called the Online Bible, which can conduct instantaneous textual searches, I am now in a state of permanent readiness for theological discussion. But sadly, despite the churches' modern search for inclusivity, the weasel makes only one appearance in the Bible, in that controversial book, Leviticus. "These shall also be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind." I have never been one to go where I'm not welcome. The Weasel

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