John Walsh: BTW (05/11/10)

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The Independent Online

* Australians are notoriously friendly chaps but there are limits. Matthew McLaughlin, a magistrate in Queensland, was hearing evidence in court from Thomas John Collins, and objected to Collins calling him "mate". Sorry, he said, you can't call me that. You must call me "Sir" or "Your Honour". There was a pause. "Okay mate," said Collins. McLaughlin, incensed by this lese majeste, sent him to the cells – and is now being criticised for getting too big for his boots. "Some of these magistrates see themselves as Lord of the Fiefdom", said councillor Paul Tully. "I say to every magistrate, 'Get off your high horse, mate, and show some tolerance.'" Call me a dreamer but I can't see this approach working at the Old Bailey.

* Remember Georges Perec, the French author, who once wrote an entire novel without the letter E? Can you guess what's being published now? Would you believe a novel in which every sentence is a question? Could you stand 176 pages of apparently random enquiries? Have you heard of Padgett Powell? He's the author of The Interrogative Mode: A Novel? but does he sound like a writer? Or a children's entertainer? Or the host of a daytime TV show (Pimp My Patio, with Padgett Powell)? Do you know what a strain it is writing like this? And does it remind you of those annoying people whose every remark, question or otherwise, goes up at the end?

* Dyson, the vacuum-cleaner company, has the ideal Christmas gift for pet-owners. For £40, you can own the Dyson Groom Tool, which sucks hair straight off your dog before it settles on your carpet, sofa or mother-in-law. It's got a nozzle and a head covered in bristles. You use it with long swooping motions, as though shearing a sheep. I cannot imagine any dog of my acquaintance that would submit to having a strange sucky device running over its haunches, variable speed or no variable speed. This device could undo thousands of years of human-canine trust. I hope James Dyson isn't planning a companion device for sucking hairs off the nation's cats. That really would cause a dent in the fabric of nature.