Why not put your money where your mind is?

BUNHILL

I am told by my colleagues who know about such things that ethical investment funds are very a la mode. You give your beans to a chap who promises not to then lend them to drug launderers, traffic wardens and so on.

I have also heard a rumour that you can now create your own ethical fund - you say what you do and don't like, and the chap invests as you want. This is an excellent idea, and should be called the Existential Fund. Jean-Paul Sartre, you will recall, was a bit of an existentialist: his line was that we should not accept a set of ethics off the shelf but should make up our own, and his aim was clearly to lay out the basis for an investment fund.

So, if you happen to hate smoking but think the Indonesian government is splendid, you could tell your manager from JPS Investments to shun BAT but pile into British Aerospace, which I am told sells aeroplanes to the Indonesians.

Your adherence to such a fund would of course be a "lifestyle statement". You would have to drink pastis, discuss revolution and mutter about hell being other people. I see the trend spreading - you might perhaps be tempted to switch to a Utilitarian Fund or even a Marxist Fund. Political philosophy and personal finance would become inextricably linked - though where it leaves those of us who are broke and without views on anything, is a moot and depressing point.

CHRIS SLADEN of Ealing has come up with a couple of useful new taxes. Paper clips, he says, are "quite the silliest product ever made; they fail to keep together the papers you want, and invariably pick up a loose sheet which you don't want". He says tax advantages should be given to tags held together with string "which in young days, in the army, were called, 'tags, India' - I don't know why".

Mr Sladen would also like a tax on any use of the word "attendee" or "escapee". He is quite right: an escapee is someone who has been escaped. This reminds me of an Indian school exercise that conjugated the verb "to eat" in its entirety. It was fine until it got the passives: the children who had to chant "I will have been eaten" must have felt a little uneasy.

Postcode posers

WHEN I was small, one of the chief devices used to keep me quiet on a car journey was to look at number plates. If I spotted one ending DE, I knew it came from Pembrokeshire, if it was MW, it was Wiltshire. I imagine many of us still have a little list of counties tucked away at the back of our brains.

Sadly, the proliferation of company cars means the suffixes have lost much of their meaning. Cars are often bought from the dealer that offers the best bargain, not the one that is closest, so the fun has all but vanished from plate-spotting.

I can, however, offer consolation to those of us who still have an I- Spy mentality. It concerns postcodes. If you are a big company with your own building, you can choose the last two letters of your code. Thus Rover Group headquarters in Warwick is CV34 6RG, while Royal Mail's ends HQ.

But I discovered as I skimmed through Noddy's Book of Big Companies that this is a hard game because hardly any companies have realised what fun it is to have their own postcodes.

Worse, some have set out to confuse. BP's postcode ends BA, while NatWest's ends BP. What can this mean? I demand on behalf of Big Chief I-Spy that companies get themselves interesting postcodes forthwith. If not, they should be taxed with vigour.

OCCASIONALLY, when my quill breaks, I am forced to use a computer. Now we all know that computer people love jargon, but there is a certain part of every programme where the person who writes it desperately tries to be human. This is the "error message".

In the old days (more than three weeks ago), the computer would simply start fizzing, or go blank, or most likely of all freeze, so you lost your work without knowing why. Well you still lose your work, but a message now comes up with emotions that range from sadistic to cloying.

My Apple Macintosh tends to sadism. When something goes horribly wrong, it tells me there has been a "fatal error", and displays a picture of a bomb with the fuse lit. A computer running Windows 95 copes with similar disaster by claiming that a programme has "performed an illegal operation". An image of a word processor disk being handcuffed and marched off to the nick springs to mind.

But it is when the computer is trying to be funny that I wish I had a brick to hand. "Unfortunately, no-one is listening to keystrokes at the moment. You might as well stop typing," my machine chirped the other day.

Another time it said this: "Damn, an error has occurred, in fact it was error 37, not very informative I know, sorry." To which the only answer is, you will be sorry. Oh yes you will be ...

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