Hit & Run: Going for a bong

What is it about bongs all of a sudden? Once upon a time, it was only students and hippies who owned the water-cooled smoking devices. But nowadays, the world of mainstream celebrity has embraced the bong: in the past week, both the American swimmer Michael Phelps and Chloe Madeley, the 21-year-old daughter of Britain's king and queen of daytime telly, Richard and Judy, have been photographed taking "hits" from bongs.

Olympic multimedallist Phelps, 23, it seems, is something of an aficionado. The pipe he was pictured using in now-infamous snaps published in the News of the World has been identified on specialist messageboards as a top-of-the-range bong by Roor, a German brand. Considered the Rolls-Royce (or perhaps Audi) of bongs by the toking community, Roor make handcrafted models that cost about £100. Made from easy-clean glass, according to the company's website, Phelps's choice also has "state-of-the-art rubber seals" to prevent leaks and can be dismantled with ease (careful bong owners clean theirs monthly). No wonder one onlooker said that Phelps "looked just as natural with a bong in his hands as he does swimming in the pool". Not that Phelps will be doing much swimming: following the bong incident he's been banned for three months.

Now, let's look at the common-or-garden glass pipe seen in the grip of young Chloe Madeley, also caught out by the News of the World. We can't say for sure who owned the bong, of course, but the low-grade equipment suggests that she's something of an amateur. Such basic bongs can be acquired from any number of websites (or the odd walk-in pipe shop in Camden) for as little as £15. Were she a more adept smoker, she might have been more experimental with her choice of glassware. Dinosaur-shaped bongs, boob bongs, Yoda bongs and even penis bongs provide hours of hilarity for smokers.

The origins of the bong – a pipe that uses water to cool and filtrate smoke – are a source of dispute among potheads (or would be if they could be bothered to argue), with some saying it evolved from pipes used in Africa, the Far East and India. And its name? The popular theory is that "bong" is an adaptation of the Thai "baung", which refers to a cylindrical wooden tube cut from bamboo and used in Thailand for centuries. American soldiers based in Thailand during the Vietnam War are believed to have taken baungs back to the US, getting their names slightly wrong in the process.

One of the earliest uses of the word "bong" is believed to be in the January 1971 issue of the publication Marijuana Review, which says: "Many thanks to Scott Bennett... for the beautiful special bong he made for my pipe collection."

At this point, Hit & Run would like to point out that this newspaper in no way advocates the use of illegal drugs; although it's not unlawful to own a bong, it could be used as evidence to convict you of a drugs offence. And you'd be very foolish to be photographed using one. Rob Sharp

A lesson in getting cheaper holidays

What a difference a week makes. Every parent knows that holiday prices rocket during the summer break, when tour operators make a mint (and make up for all the cash they lose during the rest of the year). But the next autumn term is looking like a moveable feast for schools in England and Wales. Some pupils return on Tuesday 1 September, but others go back the following Monday. This means a Thomas Cook package from Gatwick to Majorca, for a family of four staying in a three-star self-catering apartment, travelling on Saturday 22 August, will cost £1,458; a week later, the total falls by £300. Simon Calder

Not grounded in reality

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed complaints (all 29 of them) that Virgin Atlantic's glossy new TV ad, set in the Eighties and featuring gorgeous flight attendants being ogled in an airport, isn't sexist. I was at Heathrow recently when a Noughties Virgin crew passed through Terminal 3. Unlike the oglers in the ad, I managed not to drop my mobile or squirt the contents of my sandwich over my shirt, and kept my tongue firmly in my mouth. Never mind the ASA – get me the number for Trading Standards. Simon Usborne

Can a banker manage on $500,000 per year?

Surely all this bonus-bashing has gone far enough. Gordon Brown is talking about "sweeping away" the culture of pay-for-failure in the City. At least Barack Obama is allowing America's most disastrous bank bosses to be paid $500,000 (£335,000) a year. But here in New York, this cap on chief-executive compensation has already caused some squeals. It turns out it is simply impossible for the bankers to live on that sum.

Expect second, third and fourth homes in the Hamptons and Palm Beach, and on the slopes of Colorado, to flood the market. Expect fire sales of modern art collections. The half-mil' CEO will even have trouble retrenching to his Upper East Side apartment without putting his antique furniture up for sale on the sidewalk.

Here are the sums, helpfully set out this week by The New York Times: for starters, state and federal taxes will cut take-home pay to $269,000; subtract $96,000 for the mortgage, plus a similar sum for building fees (you'll need to keep a doorman in case public mobs start storming bankers' homes); school fees and a nanny will set you back $77,000, even if you don't pay private tutors to drag your spawn up from remedial class. And, er, here we are at zero.

So what about the yacht club membership, the golf club subs and the members' club? It's all got to go, and there will be nothing for charitable causes or the arts, which means fewer nights out on the cocktail circuit. It's a life of Presbyterian austerity of which even Gordon Brown would be proud. Stephen Foley

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral