News monkey

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PINOCHET IN LONDON. It's always embarrassing when murderous fascist dictators go on and on about how much they love England, and revelations about Gen Pinochet's annual visits to stock up on raincoats and electric cattle-prods are the latest example of the UK's continued status as the discerning despot's number one tourist destination. And it's not just despots. Madonna likes it here, too. Whatever it is we're doing, we have to stop.

THATCHER SPEAKS. Lady Thatcher's swift transition from world leader to professional crank is now complete, and these days she can be relied on to say something nutty about almost any topic put before her. Recent comments about Europe, unmarried mothers and the Government's beastly treatment of that nice Mr Pinochet prove the rule that all politicians eventually turn into the sort of people who used to vote for them.

BLUE PETER COKE SHOCK. Not long ago parents would have answered their children's plaintive cries of, "What's happened to Richard Bacon?" with "Who is Richard Bacon?" Now we live in a world where children know entirely too much about drugs, and grown-ups know entirely too much about Blue Peter presenters. One has to feel for Bacon, whose parents' idea of support is to call him a fool on television, but if he wanted to be treated like a responsible adult, then he should have got a grown-up job.

TYSON RING RETURN. No one remembers which article of the US constitution provided for the formation of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, but it was this august body that cut Mike Tyson's ban from the sport of boxing, from life to time served (a year), upon hearing he has beat up only two motorists in the past 12 months and after psychiatric reports which prove that Tyson is, well, a bit of a nutter. The commission did warn Tyson that this was his "last chance", but one could tell they didn't really mean it. There is such a thing as a happy ending, after all.

NAP TIME. The news that women sleep longer than men - 12 minutes on average - just doesn't ring true, even for the men who are already spouting the statistic as incontrovertible fact. Actually the statistic is a part of one of those familiar studies whose message is that men still don't do anything like their fair share of housework, as if men don't know that they haven't changed. Most men would dearly love to do two or three times the amount of housework they do now, it's just that they're so very, very tired.

RADIO 4 SLUMP. While struggling to come up with an explanation why Radio 4 has lost 640,000 listeners in three months, controller James Boyle seems to have ignored the possibility that they may have all just died. It's also very likely that due to widespread changes to the schedule, many loyal listeners only think they're listening to another station. Perhaps respondents are finally drawing a distinction between listening to Radio 4 and simply having it on, or maybe there has been a hearing- aid battery shortage over the summer.

CLEVER CHIMPS. News Monkey can hardly overlook Monkey News, but the mathematical achievements of rhesus monkeys Rosencrantz and MacDuff - they have learned to count to nine - seem a bit behind schedule, ruling out a Planet of the Apes takeover scenario any time soon. Whether this is good news or bad news depends on what else is on the horizon. While we dither, in that hotbed of scientific rigour, the Hunstanton aquarium, an octopus has learned to unscrew a jam jar. Pray for your souls.