John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

Fans of Miss World have a conundrum to puzzle over. The holder of the title, 20-year-old Peruvian dreamboat Maria Julia Mantilla, is threatening to sue a plastic surgeon called Cesar Morillas. Why? Because he claims to have operated on her, giving her buttock implants and sorting out her unfeasibly large ears. Well, you'd sue, wouldn't you, if you were a beauty queen and someone suggested that you'd had (as they say) "work" done. But here's the twist. Maria says that Cesar did operate on her, but not on her ears and rear end - only on her nose and bosom. She's annoyed that the surgeon should claim to have artificially adjusted her (apart from those regions, of course). "I'm not the creation of a surgeon," she said indignantly, "he just did my bust and my nose." But when were these operations? If they were before the contest, wouldn't that disqualify her from winning? If after it, why would the new Miss World feel she needed them?

Evidence is piling up that speed cameras, as well as being the most hated item of technology seen in the UK since the last Yes LP, are just not working. In east London, they found that a 20mph camera had been installed outside the 20mph zone. Nearly 5,600 fined motorists were given refunds of £335,800 by the hapless Transport for London. Meanwhile, 10 cameras in the West Midlands were found to break government rules - they're not visible from 60 yards away, and cause motorists to brake sharply. And there's a road in Birmingham which had a crash-free record until a camera was installed; since it was, seven people have been killed or injured. We say: get rid of the malfunctioning robots now, before they start dreaming of world domination.

Inspired phrase-making in the papers about the blue-white Chinese-porcelain dress Victoria Beckham wore to Elton John's party. The Sun headlined it "Becks' bone china" (Geddit? China plate = mate), then explained with the words: "Posh dress like plates," even supplying, for the slow-witted, a picture of a willow-pattern dish. The Daily Mirror, not to be outdone, carried the shout-line: "Posh is a minger!" before hurriedly explaining: "Victoria Beckham looked like a giant Ming vase as she stepped out with husband David..." Ah, the tabloid sub-editor's art. It's practically metaphysical poetry.

A frighteningly well-informed reader, Jonathan Sharp, has written to mock my ignorance of 1950s New York dry-cleaning methods. I was puzzled by the word "Hollanderize" in Guys and Dolls (still at the Piccadilly Theatre) and had been misinformed about its meaning by media know-alls. "It's a fur-cleaning process," says Mr Sharp, "called by the same name today, possibly deriving from the firm of A Hollander & Sons, dyers and dressers of furs, founded in Newark in 1889" and would have been as familiar to 1950s audiences as "Vitalis and Barbasol" in the Guys and Dolls title song. Well done, Mr Sharp. "And yes," he charmingly concludes, "probably I do need to get out more."