Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

Things the Swiss have given us... triangular chocolate, holey cheese, yodeling cyclists...
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The Independent Online

Now, come on, there's no use moping: it's over. Boring? If you think that, you just weren't paying enough attention. Defence was particularly gripping, and not because that was where the paint was drying.

Now, come on, there's no use moping: it's over. Boring? If you think that, you just weren't paying enough attention. Defence was particularly gripping, and not because that was where the paint was drying.

Two really challenging policies emerged from fringe parties. The Monster Raving Loonies proposed camouflaging the cliffs of Dover by painting them blue and the BNP wanted everyone to keep an assault rifle under the bed. No wonder Geoff Hoon has been reshuffled.

Assault rifles under the bed! Marvellous. Just imagine it. The Swiss started this one, and they can always be relied on for a good idea. Triangular chocolate, for example, cheese with holes, yodelling and strict neutrality in the face of an evil dictatorship intent on taking over the world.

Do you remember Frank Ifield? I do, if only for his cover version of "Lovesick Blues". As if poor Hank Williams didn't suffer enough, what with the bad back. It was a double 'A' side, along with "She Taught Me How To Yodel". Ah, yes. Did you know that Frank was born in Coventry, which is interesting, as I shouldn't have thought there was much call for communicating between mountain tops in Coventry.

Bicyles. That was another Swiss thing: The Swiss Army Bicycle Brigade, the last in the world, only disbanded a couple of years ago. You can tell former members by the way they pass very close by you on the pavement. I was always a bit puzzled by the Bicycle Brigade: surely, if you're the enemy, you just wait at the top of the alp and deal with them as they arrive at the top, slowly, and exhausted? And they used to carry anti-tank weapons on them, you know.

It takes boules...

Gone now, though. We must look elsewhere for our excitement: to the west, to France. And this is what I call a headline: "The Bad Boy of Boules is back in ball and chain". The Bad Boy of Boules! And he is: Andre Massoni, from Toulon, "the greatest player of his generation", who has just been sent to prison for dealing in cocaine and stolen goods, to whit: 500 swimsuits. There was also a question of some air-conditioning units, apparently, although why you'd need air-conditioning, what with the swimsuits, wasn't clear.

Anyway, it certainly makes Griff Sanders, you must remember, from Torquay, our "Bad Boy of Bowls", look a bit tame: just about the worst he got up to was eating chips on the green. They made a film about him, with Johnny Vegas. No, it wasn't that well received.

I've always like bowls, though. Any sport that can feature the Steradent Fixative Dental Cream England Women's Bowls Championships clearly doesn't have any problems with self-confidence or worries about image.

The calm and the patience is the thing, as typified, of course, by Francis Drake, even if he was playing on one of those flat southern tracks rather than on a crown green, the proper way to play, as practised in the north. Calm and patience: Eric, the charming man who sells excellent Lancashire cheese (with all holes barred, thank you) at Ormskirk Market, told my mum on Thursday that he's been playing for 30 years and hasn't won yet. Remarkable.

Actually, while we're in Lancashire, I have an apology to make. Last Monday, writing about the Red Rose County's many - and too often shamefully ignored - claims to fame, I mentioned Shakespeare's crucial, formative period spent at Hoghton Tower, between Preston and Blackburn, and suggested that anyone seeking to experience real rough winds in May should pay a visit.

And what happened in Hoghton at 6.45 pm last Monday? "In a scene from a Hollywood disaster film", a 100mph tornado ripped up trees and ripped off roofs, causing any amount of damage. "The twister was like a big finger pointing down, like something from the Wizard of Oz," said local resident, James Holden.

Well, what can I say? 1: Sorry. 2: Good luck, Ormskirk.

Transport news

Our regular round-up of the more interesting developments in the always fascinating world of transport. And this week to Germany, where, in an imaginative approach to road safety, the Pope's old VW Golf has been sold to a man from Texas on the on- line auction website, eBay, for £128,000.

I see that some German MPs also want to ban smoking while driving, claiming it's as much a distraction as talking on a mobile phone. A spokesman for the German Automobile Club, getting dangerously close to exploding the stererotype, said: "Eating chocolate bars, bananas or fish sandwiches while driving is also dangerous."

Fish sandwiches, eh? Maybe that explains the friendly German motorist who offered to tow a broken-down Polish tourist, hitched his car up and then drove at speeds up to 100mph down the A9 autobahn in Thuringia until they crashed. Be very careful in Thuringia.

And in British Columbia, where a driver who had run out of petrol lay down in the middle of the road, at night, to attract attention. Police said this was not recommended.

Finally, Druids in Yorkshire are opposing the extension of a quarry operated by Tarmac, claiming it will damage a nearby prehistoric site. How long have these guys been opposing progress now? Watling Street, the Fosse Way, it's always been the same. So what's next: the Iceni opposing the fourth London airport? Angles and Saxons fight Channel Tunnel Rail Link? We say: pull over!