John Walsh: The male snail who likes to give his lady a prod


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The Natural History Museum opens a new exhibition today. Entitled Sexual Nature, it displays stuffed animals and insects engaged in mating – although there is a live sex show, featuring a shoal of shameless guppy fish who seldom do anything but fornicate underwater. Jockeying for position as the weirdest species on the planet is the narcissistic Mangrove Killifish, which can mate with itself, fertilise and spawn eggs without needing company; the tenacious Venezuelan weevil which can maintain the same sexual position for 35 years; and the humble Roman snail, which, in its protracted 20-hour courtship ritual, produces little love darts which they poke into their lady friends' flesh. Like nudging her in the ribs only with more, you know, Cupidity.

* Church news No 1. Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Pope's press office, this week clarified the Catholic Church's position on believers receiving penance by mobile phone. iTunes' "Confession" app guides you through examining your conscience and offers a list of acts of contrition you can recite. Fr Lombardi said the church supports the app's development, but insists that technology "is by no means a substitute for the sacrament". So you're still going to need the "personal dialogue" thingy.

* Romanian witches and clairvoyants, following the indignity of having to pay tax, now face fines or even jail for making predictions that don't come true. There are thousands of witches, soothsayers and astrologists in Romania. Elena Ceausescu, wife of the dictator, kept a private one. Politicians routinely accuse each other of employing parapsychologists to nobble them. Top witches are threatening to strike down the country's ruler with a terrible curse. After the tax hike, protesters dumped toxic mandragora in the Danube to put a spell on the Government. It failed.

* Church news No 2. Rev Tim Stratford, a Liverpool vicar, told the General Synod this week that C of E baptisms need to be updated, shorn of their metaphors about slavery and rebirth, and given a groovy spin with "culturally relevant references, readily understood by the majority of Britons", couched in "BBC1 language". Can he mean EastEnders? How would it sound? "D'you renounce Satan? You deaf or sunnink? D'you renounce Satan an' all 'is empty promises? Cos 'e's a slag, all right?"

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