Hold the invasion, I'm still waiting for my bill

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Harrods, the top people's store, seems to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to stop other people using its name. One enterprising fellow registered "harrods.com" as a name to use on the Internet and was promptly sued. Others daring to call themselves Harrods are similarly denied the right - I bet the 21 people called Harrod in the London phone directory feel rather nervous whenever they get together.

Now Harrods is trying to block Harrods (Buenos Aires) from flogging its name for use worldwide . "The name Harrods would no longer mean, and mean only, that very special store in Knightsbridge, London," says Charles Sparrow, QC. Which is odd, because there has been a Harrods in Argentina since the beginning of the century.

I went there in 1981 and if it hasn't changed since then it deserves a preservation order at least as much as the posh London corner shop. It was, to put it mildly, quaint. I had to queue to buy a trinket at one counter: que-ue at another to have it wrapped; and queue at a third to pay for it. All of this made me think: if General Galtieri had popped in to do his Christmas shopping at Harrods that year, he would never have got out in time to invade the Falklands in April...

WHEN I buy books, I look at the back cover to see the reviews. Buying Greenfinger - The rise of Michael Green and Carlton Communications I did just that and was interested to note that it was apparently "A breathtaking account of villainy, collapsing standards and hypocrisy". I wondered if Mr Green and his lawyers might be interested in this, too, until I noticed what it said above in small print: "Praise for Raymond Snoddy's previous book."

Other industries could surely use the same device. Boeing, for example, could claim that its teeniest jet can carry 500 people (well, a Jumbo can). Honda could reasonably use a review of its Formula One racing car for the new Civic - "Very stable at 270 mph". And the housebuilder Barratt could sell its starter flats with talk of gold-plated Jacuzzis. The possibilities are endless. I am amazed that our famously clever advertising people have not exploited it.

Hole truth

THE picture on the right is of Swiss soldiers on bicycles. I have included this because a cable company has been digging up the pavement outside my house.

Why, I wondered, do the gas, water, phone, electricity and cable men all make different holes when they want to change something? Why not have hinged kerbstones, which would give easy access to all the services and leave a nice flat pavement?

I would recommend we take advice on how to do this from the Swiss, because they can even hollow out mountains. In La Place de la Concorde Suisse, a wonderful book about the Swiss army, the American journalist John McPhee describes how Switzerland is one giant military installation.

"If one just happens to be looking, one might see something like an enormous mousehole appear chimerically at the base of an Alp. Out of the mountain comes a supersonic aircraft - a Tiger, a Mirage - bearing on its wings the national white cross. In a matter of seconds it is climbing in the air."

Swiss roadsides are equally educational. Mc Phee describes how granite blocks on the Simplon road turn out to be made of plastic, concealing army spy holes from which the valley can be observed.

"Many mountains have been made so porous that whole divisions can fit inside them," he writes. Which should make hollowing out pavements a doddle.

So where do the soldiers on bicycles come in? Well, they make it into the same book. The description of efficient German-speakers in the valleys trying to communicate by radio with the drunk Romansch-speaking bicycle troops at the top of the mountains is a hoot.

I hope this is a satisfactory link with cables in south London. Obvious really.

AND last, but not least, some suggestions for executive stocking fillers.

From Alan Jones of Mountsorrel, Leicestershire: a framed photograph of the chief executive's bottom. From Magy Higgs, a multi-bladed knife with an implement for getting blood out of stones; a glossary of non-existent words such as "accessing"; and European Union- approved essence of pheromones to charm the men at the conference into agreeing with you. From my colleague Dickie: a Christmas card from Robert Maxwell. More please.