Charles Nevin: I'm beginning to see conspiracies everywhere

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How pleasing to see the conspiracy theory making a concerted comeback. After what seems an age of surviving with only the dogged support of Mr Fayed, wherever you look index fingers are being tapped knowingly on the sides of noses and small groups of people talking out of the side of their mouths are splitting up and moving away as you approach.

Fresh explorations of Harold Wilson's dark ramblings and the aged labyrinths of the Profumo and Calvi affairs; the far-reaching pie-fingerings, machinations and implications of Berlusconi and Mills, Levy and anyone with spare readies; shadowy undermining of both Blairs by almost everybody else; and, alongside it all, at the High Court, the continuing matter of the world-class compendious conspiracy contentions of Messrs Brown, Baigent and Leigh.

Splendid. Almost enough to make you think it's a conspiracy. Up until now, I have belonged to the cock-up persuasion, but it doesn't mean I can't see the appeal of a good CT. Cunning competence is much more thrilling to contemplate than stunning incompetence. Besides, certain supposed examples of incompetence, and here, for some reason, one thinks of the present administration, can be so stunning as to be unbelievable. (My current favourite is Tessa Jowell allegedly infringing her own department's new regulations by singing "The Truth is Marching On" in a royal park without a licence.)

And then there is that all-purpose, highly democratic and broadly rigorous research tool, Google, which discloses 2.52 million results for "conspiracy theory", and, for "cock-up theory", 761. So, clearly time for a re-think, which would involve my apologising to those several people, including a barber from Romford, who have attempted to get me interested in the contents of their bulging plastic bags over the years.

I don't want to go all the way back to the beginning, as the question of whether the serpent was acting alone has been pretty well aired. But why was it Eve who was tempted with the forbidden fruit? Why not Adam? I must say that God's inquiry in Genesis does seem a touch, well, peremptory. And then there's Cain's murder, supposedly an open-and-shut case, given the extremely limited number of suspects on earth. But, again, why wasn't Adam interviewed?

And how, exactly, did it get round that the forbidden fruit was an apple? There's nothing in the texts. An early example of a smear, possibly by the fig or orange industry, which has been consistently sustained since, through the likes of Snow White and that brilliant piece of disguised negative marketing, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away", advice which will inevitably fail. No wonder English apple growers are in trouble.

This wouldn't surprise anybody in cyberspace, where Adolf Hitler was a British agent, the Chinese are broadcasting strange signals using giant magnets made by a company in Chicago, and there are new aliens about who can be recognised by their six fingers, which chimes worryingly with this mysterious new "purpose" the Government has for the BBC of "building digital Britain". And don't get them started on bird flu.

All right, all right. But can you explain: 1. The weather. 2. Why all weather forecasters continually use "old", as in "chilly old day", "windy old day". 3. Jack Straw. 4. Mini-roundabouts. 5. Who's got all the water. 6. Who's got all the NHS's money. 7. Why that tubby bloke's playing fly-half for England. 8. Plug-in air fresheners. 9. Labour's education policy. 10. Who voted for them.

* Handbags, I see, have never been more popular. Interesting things, handbags. Men have an uneasy relationship with them; Jack Worthing, you will remember, was left in one at Victoria. An alien, dangerous territory, best symbolised by Margaret Thatcher and hers.

Much of it is because we, particularly of a certain age, have no equivalent, and would like one. It's tough, fitting the mobile and pod into your pockets as well as the wallet, penknife, string, marbles, WD-40 and Werther's Originals.

The manbag, though sported by the likes of David Beckham, right, never caught on; too Euro and short-sleeved-shirt (cf anything attached to the belt). The briefcase is too serious, the satchel too twee, and you know about backpacks.

So it's the old friend, the plastic bag, which despite some disadvantages (association with obsessives and conspiracy theorists, vide supra) has served me well. I used to have problems deciding whose to use (supermarkets: too downmarket, bookshops, etc: trying too hard) until I discovered that a cousin of my wife's who was at Arnhem simply turned his inside out. All the same, I look forward to the day when we can dance round ours, too.

* Continuing my melancholy watch for interesting departures, I have come across the recently late George Sassoon, son of the great Siegfried and a polymath who played the accordion and proposed an innovative solution to the problem of Gibraltar: offering Spain a reciprocal enclave in Britain.

What a splendid idea! No more hanging around crowded airports, all that Iberian style on tap on hand.

Sassoon thought Dover or Folkestone would be good, but I can think of more apt places, like that attractive area of south London which could become El Tham. El Bow also has a ring to it, but I think the plan so good we should hand over a whole county. I have in mind one with lively resorts, golden sands and an eye for the exotic; it is also the native turf of Mr Frank Evans, El Ingles, Britain's most recent bullfighter: La Ncashire. Let t'Fiestas begin!

c.nevin@independent.co.uk

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