LOKI HAS been inundated by begging letters from lonely young Englishmen, desperate to be carried off by pretty Finnish nurses (those latter-day Viking invaders), but would point out that he was just trying to pay tribute to the young ladies' wit and imagination. In

Danegeld. (But they would insist on Finngeld!) So on now to transferable skills: know-how gained in one job that may prove handy in another.

John Pickin foresees Maff skills at the Department of Education leading to exam results being improved by a pre-GCSE cull. Geoffrey Tickle tells one about the keyhole surgeon who became a master decorator, specialising in wallpapering clients' hallways through the letterbox. And Fiona and John Earle are now into reincarnation, with elephants coming back as telephonists and woodpeckers reborn as dentists.

Enid Meys has astronauts design fairground rides, lion-tamers go into teaching, butchers become coroners, tailors re-train as surgeons. Bill Palmer thinks train drivers turned probation officers might keep clients on the rails; J.A. Kelly has train guards branch out into investigative journalism, to use their whistle-blowing skills.

R.J. Pickles has second- hand car salesmen become potters, so they can carry on dealing with mugs. Magy Higgs sees steeplejacks becoming social climbers and beehive hairstylists bee-coming apiarists. And John Burrows reshuffles Mo Mowlam as Blondin, tightrope-walking across the Niagara Falls Road.

Politicians would make good hot-air balloonists, says Eric Bridgstock. But T.M. O'Grady disagrees; let them be plumbers and fix leaks. And let midwives on bikes deliver pizzas. Though the sports consultant Mike Gifford is headhunting midwives to bowl for England, and recruiting traffic wardens as soccer referees. Meanwhile Bruce Birchall says midwives are now proclaiming "Stand and deliver!", moonlighting as highwaywomen. And N.E. Gough has oche-less darts players trying knife-throwing.

Fishermen could mend the Internet, Karol Szlichcinski suggests, and fortune- tellers be commodity brokers in futures. Paul Turner has schizophrenics retrain as mind-readers, specialising in twins. A tree surgeon used to cutting branches would be a good chairman for a bank, argues Susan Tomes, but would he notice a washerwoman laundering money for the Mafia? And would a coastguard turned gigolo know when the coast was clear? Nigel Plevin wonders.

Enid Meys, Karol Szlichcinski and Geoffrey Tickle win a Chambers Dictionary of Quotations. Mobile phones are making 999 calls without their owners' knowledge, when buttons are accidentally pressed. Loki wonders what might happen if photocopiers, microwave ovens, bleepers etc started to act independently. Suggestions to Loki.Valhalla@btinternet. com or Creativity, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL, by 23 September. Please include an address! Next week: the second time as farce: contemporary parallels for historical events.

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