Flat Earth

MARCH is the month of St Patrick, as all Irish people know. And as the 17th approaches we feel we should warn you of what to expect at an Irish embassy reception. Our advice covers the shamrock, that sentimental symbol of Ireland's bogs, and its embarrassing disappearance in Peking on St Patrick's Day 1980, when the Dublin government threw an expansive do to mark the opening of its embassy there.

As was the case at Peking, you will probably pass an enormous Waterford crystal bowl, filled with shamrocks flown in at great expense from the republic, as you wait in line to shake hands with the ambassador. Beside the Waterford you'll find a silver platter of pins to attach the shamrock to your lapel.

In 1980 every leading cadre in Peking turned up at the embassy's door. The reception line took more than a hour to pass. With everyone inside and the party underway, embassy staff saw that the crystal bowl was indeed empty, but that, oddly, there was not a single sprig of shamrock on a Chinese lapel.

The problem was solved when an alert junior diplomat spotted several mandarins picking green fragments from their teeth. China's rulers had just grazed their way through the equivalent of a quarter of an acre of shamrock pasture.

Nice little earner

SHE advertised herself in 'adult' magazines as a sex- hungry air hostess, aged 34. When she appeared in court in Copenhagen, she was leaning on a walking stick and admitted to being 75. She was charged with deception and blackmail, having enticed 100 young men to her garden at night, persuaded them to strip naked on the lawn so she could first 'judge them on their merits', then call their bluff.

As the nude Dane waited patiently to be inspected, she would emerge from her house dressed as a nurse accompanied by her son.

He, too, was dressed as a hospital worker. Together they threatened the hapless victim with the law. He was told there was a 92-year-old woman on her death-bed inside the house, and his unruly conduct in the garden was likely to tip her over the edge. There were two alternatives: a pounds 40 'fine' payable on the spot, or the police. Most chose to pay up.

Drunk on power

WE TOLD you last week that a new political party, Beer Drinkers, had been formed in Russia. It has been pointed out to us that in neighbouring Poland an identical Beer Lovers Party won 16 seats at the general election in 1991. It later split into two factions, Big Beer and Little Beer. Perhaps it was the result of a bad hangover.

Country pumpkins

JAPAN'S modern image takes a knock from time to time when its people, especially in the countryside, show they are ill- informed about the ret of the world.

The University of Tokushima on the west Japanese island of Shikoku has agreed to build a tall fence around a hostel for foreign students, and to bathe the area with floodlight. The locals had complained that the foreigners would forage through their vegetable patches, steal their pumpkins and cucumbers and wander into their homes.

Virus renaissance

AND finally, a health advisory for your computer. A virus called 'Michelangelo' is expected to strike PCs with MS-

DOS operating systems today, as it did on 6 March last year and the year before. Persons unknown introduced the virus, which destroys all data entered in computers on 6 March, the anniversary of Michelangelo's birth.

The disease is especially virulent in Germany, where 15,000 computers came down last year. It is, happily, much less common on this side of the channel. The worst virus here is the comparatively benign 'Stoned' which, like our sister paper, the Independent, merely calls for the legalisation of marijuana.