Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

Bad egg makes off with statue of Humpty Dumpty? We should have seen that coming
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The Independent Online

Welcome to another edition of News from Elsewhere, the column that boldly goes well beyond the margins of the usual news and current affairs agendas to provide balance, proportion, context and that shake of the head and wry smile which is often accompanied, north of the Trent, by an expression calibrating just the right amounts of amazement and interest: "Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs!"

Experienced stair-footers will have noticed several dispatches from the unpredictable world of clairvoyance recently. It started with the unexpected power failure which left at least 15 clairvoyants in the dark for 20 minutes at this year's Psychic Fair in North Sydney, continued with the Intuition Astrology Gallery in Chicago failing to foresee a licensing crackdown on fortune telling and may have reached a peak - who can tell? - last week, when Herve Vandrot's crystal ball focused sunlight on a pile of laundry in his Edinburgh flat and started a fire.

Better news, though, from Marshall, Missouri, where the Jim the Wonder Dog Memorial Garden is said to be doing great business. Jim The Wonder Dog? He was psychic, too, and very big in the Thirties, when he picked the Kentucky Derby winner seven times, predicted that Franklin D Roosevelt would be re-elected and responded to questions in Ancient Greek. His owner lived at the Hotel Ruff in Marshall.

Jim now has a website offering a variety of merchandise, although I note that his dog dish is temporarily out of stock, owing to etc. You are ahead of me: I have left a message inquiring about bets on the seven Kentucky Derbies.

What next? Indeed. Well, congratulations are due to Richard Brewster, whose gripping DIY book, The Art of Soldering, has become a surprise bestseller, with sales of nearly 20,000. I understand a copy has been found in Prince Harry's bedroom at Sandhurst, but he's said to be a touch disappointed with it.

Staying with technology, I was fascinated to read of a new, and typically imaginative, British invention, the bikini that bleeps every 15 minutes to tell sunbathers it's time to turn over. I can see all manner of bleeping adaptations, including one every 15 minutes to remind David Blunkett he's not in charge, one every five seconds so Gordon Ramsay can self-censor, one to go in the pockets of several people I can think of down the pub, and one every 20 minutes to remind listeners to Tony Benn to say: "how very true," or, "so you were warning about that even then? Remarkable!"

News, also, of two other communications breakthroughs: dark glasses concealing a lie detector, and a device which detects the interest in the voice of the person at the other end of the phone. Phrases most seriously under threat will be: "So what happened next?", "How fascinating," "No, it's fine," "food poisoning", "the baby sitter's let us down," and, "yes, dear."

Pigs might orbit

Sunbathing, though, reminds me, for some reason, that China's next space mission will carry capsules of pedigree pig sperm in an attempt to produce better pork. Apparently exposure to outer space is a cracker for genetic mutation (no space shuttle captain asides, please). Hmm. Flied rice next, I suppose.

And in a piece of related pioneering, I can also tell you that, after nearly five decades of carving pigs out of butter for display at the Iowa State Fair, Norma "Duffy" Lyon, 75, has this year broken with tradition and carved a life-sized butter statue of Tiger Woods. Splendid. I wonder whether it will spread.

Other farm-product-focused sculpting news: a three-foot, 60lb bronze of Humpty Dumpty has been stolen from where it was sat on a wall in Indian Shores, Florida. The owner, Mr Hugh Smith, has offered a reward for Humpty's safe return: "There's always one bad egg who spoils it for everyone else," he said. Police haven't cracked it yet.

Fairly quiet elsewhere on the unusual crime scene, apart from the two men in Arkansas who tried to steal a television presenter's car from the set during a live broadcast. They were caught, as was the misbehaving motorist in Michigan who was traced after a troupe of passing football cheerleaders turned his number into a chant so they could remember it. It was 2468, then, presumably.

Coffee: a man from Omaha is trying to visit every Starbucks in the world, record so far 29 in one day. How could he tell? And then he got to the end of the street. That sounds like a grind. All right, all right.

Dog days

Dogs: a bull terrier in Cologne has had a g-string removed from its stomach. Rather to my surprise, police are not making further inquiries. Don't they get Silent Witness over there? Another terrier, meanwhile, in Stockport, has survived a 30ft jump from a window after landing on a rubbish sack. A mistake to call it Buzz Lightyear, I should have said. And there's another dog-learns-to-call-emergency-services story, a German Shepherd from New Jersey, but it does have an interesting name: Slayer. Marvellous.

Slightly further south, a survey has named West Virginia as the American state with the most toothless residents, taking over the title from Kentucky. Which reminds me: no further news from Jim the Wonder Dog as yet. But I can tell you that Walt Disney was afraid of mice. Well, etc.