NEWS MONKEY

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The Independent Online
GAY SMEAR. Gay men who have no wish to act camp, cross dress or become politically active will be pleased at the attitudes of professional footballers, who appear to believe that to qualify as homosexual all you have to do is read a few books and marry someone foreign. Whether the recent taunts aimed at the "intellectual" Graeme Le Saux by Liverpool player and moron's moron Robbie Fowler constitute a "gay smear campaign" is debatable, but it's obvious such remarks have no place in professional football, where nobody seems to know what they mean.

BANANA WAR. The Banana War between America and Europe is no longer just about bananas, but Banana War sounds better than Cashmere War, or Biscuit War, or Lead Acid Storage Battery War. The recent friction between Downing Street and the White House over the trade sanctions could strain the special relationship. It remains to be seen whether, when Bill and Tony next meet, they'll be glad to see each other, or just have bananas in their pockets.

ACCENTS AWAY. By calling for compulsory treatment for the regionally- challenged, novelist Beryl Bainbridge has shown herself to be tremendously old-fashioned. Plastic surgery has long since surpassed elocution lessons as the most popular form of ruthless self-improvement, and it's no longer one's consonants that have to be well-pronounced. Like most people who wish for everyone to speak with the same accent, Bainbridge will probably be extremely disappointed when everyone chooses Australian.

DOME FUTURE. There's still time to propose ideas for what to do with the Millennium Dome after everyone has forgotten why it was built in the first place, but the simple solutions are usually the best, and it's worth looking at ways in which large redundant buildings have been previously adapted. The Dome would certainly make an impressive go-kart track with very little modification - just a few stacks of tyres and a snack bar - or it could become London's premier self-storage facility. It could be converted into the world's largest covered car park, although you'd have to put something of interest on the site to make people want to drive there in the first place.

LEWINSKY VISIT. Monica Lewinsky is coming to Britain, and if Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Madonna and General Pinochet are anything to go by, she'll probably be so impressed that she'll want to stay awhile. This raises the possibility of yet another use for the Dome, a scheme which anyone who's seen The Truman Show will have guessed at already. We don't have to re-create all of London, just the fashionable bits and enough of Hyde Park to jog in, and we can keep those American celebrities and foreign despots right where we want them: on telly.

NEW TIE KNOT. As it is with total eclipses, so it is with new necktie knots - only a few appear in a century. Now all this has changed, after two spoilsport scientists used computer mapping to come up with six new knots, bringing the total to 10, which is clearly too many. A range of 10 knots makes it possible for the wearer to send out a range of subtle signals which are bound to be misinterpreted by the less sartorially aware. Given the climate in his workplace, Graeme Le Saux would be well-advised to avoid the new knots altogether, while Robbie Fowler should just keep practising with his shoes.

TIM DOWLING

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