Tales Out Of School: Strange Stories From The Global Classroom

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The Independent Online
Christmas cheer (1): Don't tie yourself up in knots over what to buy the man in your life for Christmas. Scientists at Cambridge University have published a timely book to help you through the gift-buying minefield. The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie: the Science and Aesthetics of Tie Knots, by Dr Thomas Fink and Dr Yong Mao, gives a whole new dimension to the traditionally safe gift. Minutes of fun for all the family.

Christmas cheer (2): It would appear that the true meaning of Christmas has escaped some in Ongar, Essex. Nine-year-old Rebecca Broughton won a competition to design Christmas cards, organised by Ongar Town Partnership, which invited entries from local schools. However, Rebecca's winning entry was withdrawn from shop shelves after complaints that it was too violent.

Upon closer inspection, it was revealed that the card featured a picture of Santa Claus being kicked to death by his jolly reindeer. The message inside read: "What did Rudolph say to Santa when he was kicking him to death? Merry Kickmas!" Errm, ho ho ho?

Brian Hubbard, owner of Sennas newsagents, which was selling the questionable cards, said: "I was surprised it slipped by the teacher, the headmistress, the organisers and the printers." So say all of us.

Field trip with a difference: Thousands of Eritrean students are back in classes this week after they were called up en masse to help bring in the annual harvest. Twenty thousand high-school students from the poverty- stricken East African state were sent to the main crop-growing areas in the Garsh Barka region and the Hazemo plains.

"In the current situation with Ethiopia, we are obliged to do our best for food security," said Habteab Gahad, of the Ministry of Education. Eritrea has been at war with Ethiopia since early last year. "The participation gives the students experience of the culture of work and also gives them a chance to experience visiting different areas."

Stating the obvious: Researchers from Warwick University have come up with some astonishing results after a study into the working and commuting times of British employees. According to Professor Andrew Oswald and Dr Andrew Benito, people with university degrees spend 50 per cent more time commuting than those with lower qualifications.

Fascinating, but here comes the meat on the bones from Professor Oswald. "All across Western society, congestion is getting worse and skilled workers are taking more time getting to work. Getting transport running smoothly has to be a future priority in the industrialised nations."

No kidding.

Can you catcha the milk snatcher? Lothian and Borders Police are on the trail of a thief who has been stealing the regular milk round to Corstophine Primary School in Edinburgh. Over three months, the white-fingered villain has skimmed off hundreds of cartons of milk - denying the tots in school their daily pint.

Officers are baffled by the thefts of the distinctive cartons which are not available in the shops. "It has happened several times over the last few months," said a spokeswoman for the local police. "It really is quite cruel. We really do wonder what a person is doing with so much milk."