Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

On a bleak Monday, some dying words, gun accidents and snake stories to cheer you up
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The Independent Online

Happy Monday! Now, come on. At least it's not next Monday, which has been identified by a health psychologist in Wales as the most miserable day of the year, based on things like the weather and Xmas being a distant, unpaid memory. Well. A Monday? I can only assume he doesn't read this column, used by many to reassure themselves that things could be much worse.

Anyway, to strengthen your resolution for next week, I should like to concentrate today on encouraging, heartwarming news.

And, first, I note that Mr Ed Lorenz, 69, has died at a bowling alley in Portage, Michigan. Mr Lorenz, who had been inducted into the Kalamazoo Metro Bowling Association Hall of Fame last May, collapsed shortly after bowling 12 consecutive strikes for the third time in his life. "If he could have written a way to go out, this would be it," said his friend Mr Johnny D Masters, who had been bowling with him.

A good end, then. It reminds me of Bing Crosby, who died after shooting a very respectable 85 at La Moraleja Golf Club, Madrid, in 1977. "That was a great game of golf, fellas," said Crosby at the 18th. "He then took a few steps and was gone," as his biographer puts it. Marvellous. I like last words. Two other favourites: "God bless ... God damn," from James Thurber, and, "How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?", P T Barnum.

Further research, though, reveals that Bing's last words were really, "Let's go get a Coke." Can't think why they haven't made more of that.

While we're here, I am also able to tell you that, contrary to legend, the slogan "Come Alive With Pepsi!" was not interpreted in China as "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Dead".

Anyway, golf. Do you play? A great game, but as I noted elsewhere recently, not without its detractors. I just hope they read this newspaper on Friday, where they would have noticed that the Beatles got their first break after playing at a golf club where the Cavern's owner, Mr Alan Sytner, who has now gone to join Bing and Mr Lorenz, was a member. Sorry? No, they were playing a gig, not golf, but you can't have everything.

Try, too, this list of famous golfers: Rudyard Kipling, Charles I, Patrick Hamilton, Malcolm Lowry, Dwight D Eisenhower, Peter Cook, Alice Cooper, Dennis Hopper, Harpo Marx, and Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. William Faulkner, moreover, took the manuscript of The Sound and the Fury, which begins with a golf scene, to New York in a golf bag.

Excellent, and good luck if you're going to have a shot at The Sound and the Fury, compared to which the 15th at Lytham is a right doddle. And now I must tell you that Al Capone once got a hole in one leg on the Olympia Fields golf course in Chicago when the gun he always kept in his bag next to his putter went off accidentally. And that when they asked Groucho if he wanted to play Hamlet he replied, "Not unless he gives me a stroke a hole."

Big Al's mishap emphasises that criminals get some tough breaks. Only recently, for example, Mr Francisco Torres, 52, wanted for murder in New York City, was arrested at a city hospital as he was being treated for a severe asthma attack which had been triggered by the gunpowder residue from the bullet he fired at his victim. Elsewhere, Mr Daniel Clark, who had dressed as a Smurf to rob a hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, was arrested after failing to clean all the blue paint off his face. And you think you're unlucky?

Consider, too, the firefighters of Shimohetsugi, southern Japan, whose fire station has been extensively damaged by a blaze which started during a party at the station to mark the end of a fire awareness promotional event. Reason to be alarmed, I should have said.

Politics now, and straight to Minnesota, where another politician with a drink problem, Mr Jonathan "The Impaler" Sharkey, a self-confessed vampire, is running for Governor. "I'm a Satanist who doesn't hate Jesus," said Mr Sharkey. "I just hate God the Father." I think he might have things crossed there. In Armenia, meanwhile, Mr Ovik Oveyan, the Culture Minister, has been sacked for allegedly pistol-whipping electricity workers after a power cut at his home. President Robert Kocharian said Mr Oveyan has been dismissed for behaviour "inappropriate for a Culture Minister".

Actually, you know, it seems that Goering never made the famous remark about reaching for his revolver at the mention of culture. The only recorded source is in a play by the Nazi Hanns Johst, where a stormtrooper remarks: "When I hear the word culture, I cock my Browning." Hmm. Did you know the Nazis were into panto?

All right, all right, one last try to cheer you up: at least you're not Mr Shahimi Abdul Hamid, 33, of Malaysia, who is going to attempt a new world record by employing his professional snake mesmerising skills to kiss one 50 times in 10 minutes. Charming, I call that. Oh, and I've just had another great idea: wouldn't next Monday be the most splendidly apt choice for Gordon's new British Day? Till then.

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