Norma had them in stitches

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The Independent Online
BOWING TO public demand, we bring you further details from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting last weekend where, as you may remember, the various leaders were given time off from their talks and fanned out across the wild Antipodean countryside on safaris, white-water rafting, sailing, bungee jumping (one hopes) and so on. Dr Mahathir of Malaysia jet-boated down the high-tempered Shotover River with the Australian PM's wife on his lap, while the pistol-packing Ghanaian leader Jerry Rawlings, who at home relaxes on Sunday afternoon by buzzing Accra Beach in a jet fighter, played squash with the Sultan of Brunei.

Mr and Mrs Major, on the other hand, had a cup of tea in the Wind in the Willows Bookshop cafe, then went shopping in the main street of Arrowtown. First John bought Norma a yellow cotton jumper for pounds 40. Then he went mad and bought a pounds 100 cream woolly jumper, also for Norma. Now you may think that this all sounds very tame and dull, but you forget the lesson of the mock-epic genre - pitfalls and ambushes lurk even in a knitwear shop. No sooner had he completed the second purchase than Reuter flashed a report round the world indicating that the cream-coloured jersey did not suit Norma. "It looked hideous," they quoted a passer-by as saying.

Coup de theatre

THE STRANGEST sight of the week was the re-enactment, by Israeli police and the assassin himself, of the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. It's not that the procedures, which apparently follow most arrests in Israel, are a bad idea as such. You can see that they provide excellent evidence, and everyone seems to enjoy doing them, and also watching them. One problem with criminal acts is that they are notoriously surreptitious, depriving the community of any sense of occasion. With five million recorded offences each year in Britain, the chance of sighting villains re-enacting their burglaries and robberies under the direction of the police would bring a medieval liveliness back to our streets, presently dominated by belching traffic and people mooching in and out of Boots.

The problem with last week's show in Israel, however, was that the police, carried away by the dramatic power of the performance, seemed to forget its original purpose. After the toy pistol was pulled and the assassin helpfully went "tak tak tak", to indicate gunfire, the watching crowd shouted wild abuse at him - but so too did the policemen assembled around him. According to one witness, they all - including the one who played the role of Rabin and had fallen down "dead" - began yelling and cursing the accused.

It reminds us of that time in New Zealand when two policemen jumped in a river to re-enact the drowning of a constable, and in a spirit of de Niro-esque accuracy, managed to drown themselves as well.

Balkan babes

SO WHAT'S become of Rad-ovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serb Republic, as the peace talks in Ohio proceed without him and indictments for his war crimes drift from the skies? What does he actually do as his grisly statelet rots away beneath him?

Well, we're not fully briefed about this, but I can tell you that recently he received a delegation from the Gynaecological-Obstetric sections of the Societies of Yugoslav and Bosnian Serb Physicians who urged his help to stimulate the "static and declining birthrate". Mr K agreed that a healthy birthrate was one of his greatest interests and promised to help by means of state regulation. It seems a bit rich, from the man who shook his gory locks and turned his country into an abbatoir. But perhaps there's a kind of Balkan logic that we're overlooking here. Now that peace is at hand, lots of babies need to be born so that they can grow up, get to know their neighbours, drink coffee with them (have you ever noticed how victims in Bosnia invariably remarked that, in the days of peace, they used to drink coffee with their tormentors?), then go to war against them in, let's say, the year 2030.

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