Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

What would I do without surveys to read as I wait 10 minutes, 17 seconds for your call?
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The Independent Online

So, where are you? I've got better things to do than hang around here all day, you know, it is a bank holiday, after all. And I've been waiting a lot longer than 10 minutes, 17 seconds, which, I see, according to a survey, is the time that passes before the average Briton feels inclined to ring up and apologise for not being there. But from you, nothing.

So, where are you? I've got better things to do than hang around here all day, you know, it is a bank holiday, after all. And I've been waiting a lot longer than 10 minutes, 17 seconds, which, I see, according to a survey, is the time that passes before the average Briton feels inclined to ring up and apologise for not being there. But from you, nothing.

I suppose it's possible you might have got stuck in Leicester, Nottingham or Bristol, which, I see from another survey, are the most congested cities in Britain, after London. And if you're near, please don't go to have a look, as it will only make it worse and you haven't got the time. Where would we be without these surveys? Where would I be without these surveys? Exactly. And there's been more trouble with road signs. A motorist in Cardiff, apparently, has just crashed next to one outside a church saying, "Is prayer your steering wheel?"

Holy smoke

Which reminds me: more pope news! Following the sale of his old VW for £130,000, Pope Benedict's old flat in Bonn is now up for grabs, too. If you're interested, make sure you keep back a bit for decoration, as I also read that he's a bit of a smoker. Yes. There's a message there somewhere, you know, as there is over in the United States, where the wheeze to auction the previous pope's old blue Ford Escort in Las Vegas for something like £2m has run into a row over ownership. Sadly, though, I don't think the venue is Caesar's Palace.

Actually, in Latin American Spanish, "el papa" is the pope, while "la papa" is a potato. Just thought I'd mention it while I was waiting. Oddly enough, a Romanian football coach called Lucian Popa has just been sacked by text message. Mr Popa said there had been differences of opinion, but he thought he at least deserved a phone call. Don't ever get involved in rugby league, Mr Popa: over here one of our clubs sacked a coach by leaving a message under his windscreen wiper.

Well, I suppose I'd better find something to do while I'm waiting. In China, there's a man who can pull a car with his ears while walking on eggs, but I'm not sure I fancy that, not first thing at least. Worrying news next door in Mongolia, meanwhile, where Nambaryn Enkhbayar, the new president, is said to be an admirer of Mr Blair. I'd start checking the state of that Great Wall, now.

What else? Well, there's always outdoor sex, I suppose. Yes, indeed, another survey. Watch where you're walking today because an average of 69 per cent of respondents across the country claimed to indulge, with a top score of 72 per cent in Yorkshire, which finally explains Ilkley Moor. The figure in Lancashire is 10 per cent lower, reflecting discretion, restraint and a polite wish not to embarrass any visitors from Yorkshire by comparison.

I might go out for a drink. The pubs, I also see, are now going to be full of police officers posing as courting couples while spotting potential drink drivers. Marvellous. It'll never work, though, because any couples actually talking to each other in a pub will stick out like a police car doing thirty. Another good way to check is to hum the theme from The Bill and see if their feet start tapping. Also, be wary of anyone ending their order with, "please, chummy".

Get me out of here

There is some good news, though. The Spice Girls are re-forming. They are. No, just the once, at Live 8, the big Bob Geldof concert in July coinciding with the G8 meeting in Scotland and aimed at putting pressure on world leaders to alleviate Third World Debt. Frankly, I would have thought just threatening to re-form The Spice Girls might be more effective. David Beckham announced last week that he wanted to go the Moon, but it must be a coincidence.

Talking of the Dark Side, there have been very rum goings-on in Malaysia, where a man dressed as Darth Vader exposed himself to 15 women factory workers standing at a bus stop at seven am. "At first, I thought he was a die-hard Star Wars fan trying to impress us with his costume. But we were shocked when he showed us his private parts," said one of them. Quite.

Passing the time

As it happens, six per cent of respondents in the outdoor sex survey said they had indulged at a bus stop (or passenger waiting environment, as they are now known to the Greater Manchester Transport Executive), which might seem a pretty damning verdict on bus punctuality were it not for another survey showing that the average British man takes seven minutes and 36 seconds, which, by my reckoning, is a full two minutes and 41 seconds before he feels inclined to apologise. No, it didn't seem to mention the women, so no change there.

Ah, there you are! At last! Where have you been? No, you came by car, but you were held up reading a survey? Remarkable. What did it say? Britons laughed three times more in the Fifties than they do now? It doesn't surprise me. Steady! Here was one of those three times: "Waiter, there's a dead fly in my soup! I know, sir, it's the heat that kills them". Hey, where are you going?

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