FLAT EARTH

Good sin transit - a touch too much

FIRST, THE weekly religious briefing. We're sorry to report an exponential increase in Sin, especially in Tehran and environs, where the authorities have had to re-organise the mass transit arrangements accordingly. Chief of Public Tranportation, Mr Mohammad Ali Tarfa, explains: "Everyday, 370,000 women take our mini-buses, and, want it or not, each male passenger has an average of at least 10 contacts with female passengers. This means 3,700,000 sins per day. That contradicts our religious convictions." Under the new deal, women must sit on the right hand side of buses and men on the left. But this solution does not cover the rush hour when men and women have to stand crushed together in the aisles, sinning on an astronomical scale.

Bear witnesses

TO OTTAWA, where the residents are focusing on next month's referendum on Canadian unity. Or they were, until Nature reared up and tapped them on the shoulder with a dark paw. This first came to our notice when our Washington correspondent paid a flying visit this month and reported a family of bears stripping the crab-apple tree in his hosts' garden, the all-night ursine clang of dustbin lids, and the flat refusal of the family labrador to go down certain leafy paths because of the bear question. At the same time bears turned up in a bus tunnel, whatever that is, and up a tree at the centre of a busy intersection. This week however, the bears, rather like sin in Tehran, have gone critical. "I've never seen anything like it," said Daniel Charron, president of Animal Control. "There are bears in the yard, bears in the trees, bears looking in the windows."

What does it mean? In our millenium the art of divination has been rather neglected (I blame the Romans), though it remains relatively simple in Britain. An owl blinking in daylight obviously signifies Mr Major on transport policy. Glimpse a molehill at the edge of the lawn, and the mind turns easily to Mr Rifkind's statesmanship. But thousands of small black bears invading your capital? Fetch the ancient texts.

Misappropriation

THERE WE were reading the claims and denials last week that Britain was secretly colluding with France over nuclear tests in the Pacific when we got to the letter from the Minister for Defence Procurement, James Arbuthnot, to the shadow defence secretary, David Clark, saying it would "not be appropriate" to give details of Anglo-French nuclear co-operation.

"Not appropriate"? Hmmm... I have to tell you that we've been keeping an eye on this phrase for some time, ever since we first spotted it behaving suspiciously in the vicinity of official replies - not to mention the lips of the politically correct. What it really means is the speaker doesn't fully understand his reasons for, say, a refusal, or, more often, that he does and knows they will sound absurd or disgraceful. After all, what could be more appropriate than letting the country know whether Britain is conniving with France as it pounds an atoll belonging to some Polynesians into radioactive crumble, thus infuriating two of this country's closest natural allies, Australia and NZ?

"Not appropriate" today strikes the same false note as our old friend, the verb "abhor". Remember "abhor"? During the 1980s it wonderfully came to mean its exact opposite, as in the phrase "Of course I abhor apartheid, but - ", which really meant: "Actually it sounds like a jolly good idea and I wouldn't lift a finger to disrupt it."

If it's true - and it sounds likely - that Britain is profiting from a technology flow from the Pacific tests, one party will be delighted with an unexpected byproduct - the disruption of the Commonwealth summit in Auckland in November. The French have always looked coldly on this gathering of Anglophones, and at this very moment must be weighing up whether to let off a nice big bomb just before, or during, or after the meeting in the South Pacific.

Cut and thrust

A SAD accident has befallen one of America's premier chefs, Georges Perrier, who, whether from greed or just unthinking impatience, suddenly plunged his hand into the fish mousse forgetting the fact that it was in the Robot Coupe, a processor which has a particularly sharp circular blade. He was rushed to hospital with three fingers nearly off and he won't be in the kitchen for quite some time.

He seems a spiky sort of character, this Georges. His restaurant is named le Bec Fin - the edge of the bird's beak - for example, and when he turned up on CBS's The Late Show he cooked lobsters and cracked open a bottle of champagne with a sabre. I hate to boast about our powers of prevision, but if we'd seen that particular Late Show we could have told you that Georges was heading for trouble. We had a friend who used to open champage with a sabre at what might otherwise have been perfectly well-mannered drinks parties in the Russell Square area. Or failing a sabre, a heavy Sabatier kitchen knife. (Now that I think about it, he always was failing a sabre.) Anyway - as I was saying, an awful fate overtook him. He developed a large paunch and is now the drive-time host on an FM station.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee