Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

A colonoscope has been stolen. Police are either looking into it or trying to get to the bottom of it
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The Independent Online

Ever get the feeling that things are passing you by? Well, fret no more: welcome to News from Elsewhere, probably this country's finest source of deep context and collated information on events and happenings that tend to slip beyond the margins of conventional agendas.

For example, in the deep context department, you probably knew that on this very day in 1886 Griswold Lorillard of Tuxedo Park, New York, had his eponymous menswear moment; and that, just six years later, Earle Dickson, the inventor of the adhesive plaster, was born in New Jersey (and what a pity his name wasn't Earle Stickson); but did you know that on this day in 1995 most Dutch telephone numbers increased to ten digits?

You did? Gelukwensen! Some of the rest of you, though, I imagine, might be wondering what conceivable use this information might be. To them I say this: you never know. It could come in pretty handy if you suspect that someone is pretending to be Dutch. And, gentle hint, today is also Chris Tarrant's birthday.

As it happens, knowing that Duffel, where the coats come from, was in Belgium rather than Holland was one of the reasons why that woman became Chris's first big winner, so there. As it happens, too, even though they also have the programme, the number of Dutch millionaires increased by only 2.4 per cent last year, compared with 8.9 per cent in Britain, the largest rise in Europe. I notice from a new survey that we are also Europe's most prolific shoplifters, but I don't think the two are necessarily connected. And, in mitigation, I'd like to point to our traditional dislike of a fuss or bothering people, especially when they're busy.

In Italy, meanwhile, they've been using clowns in operating theatres to relax anxious children. This, though, has been irritating the medical staff, which I can quite understand, as the last thing you want in there is someone parping a hooter, squirting you with a carnation at a crucial moment, or passing you a custard pie instead of a scalpel. They're only meant to stay until the children go under, but you can't trust a clown, can you, particularly if his nose is hidden by a surgical mask.

Other hospital news: a colonoscope has been stolen from one in Pennsylvania. Your choice: Police are either looking into it or trying to get the bottom of it. It's the fourth to go missing, apparently, which doesn't surprise me, because there's nothing worth watching on television these days, and at least it would make a change.

You could also try going to The Pitch Drop Experiment on the net, where a webcam is trained on a big lump of the tarry stuff which has dripped eight times since it was set up in 1927, but has never been seen doing it. The next drop is due in 2011, which just gives it the edge in suspense over Midsummer Murders. In 2000, the last drop, they had it under video surveillance, but the equipment failed at the vital moment, particularly persuasive evidence, should you require it, of The Intelligent Designer's sophisticated sense of humour.

If moose could fly

Should you want more, we go now to eastern Sweden, where a hunter has been knocked unconscious by a Canada goose which landed on his head shortly after his son shot it. Mr Ulf Ilback says he may now wear a helmet during this month's moose hunt, which is interesting, as it was just last week that we concluded only reindeer could fly. And, in case you're wondering, yes, we've already had the dog shoots hunter story, featuring Mr Vasil Plovdiv and his excitable German Pointer, in Bulgaria, last month. Oh, and in South Gippsland, Australia, a man who makes kangaroo warning road signs has just been knocked off his motorbike by a kangaroo.

British preoccupations (away from the High Street): The National Trust has launched a campaign to find the country's ugliest vegetable. But the Germans, increasingly unstoppable in this kind of area, have come muscling in with Europe's biggest pumpkin, 88 stones, in Bavaria, which makes the report that Martha Stewart was supposed to be rowing one for charity across a Canadian lake slightly more credible, I suppose.

Other news involving water: another attempt to test dolphin goodwill to the limit, this time in Florida, where, after interminable promptings, one has now given in and is singing the old Batman TV theme. Honestly, poor thing: it must be like straying into the wrong wedding party and being forced up on stage for a bit of karaoke by the bride's tipsy mother. You'd think they'd know that dolphins, being dolphins, prefer the classical stuff, and are happiest on the high Cs.

We should be very careful. Only last week, at the World Extraterrestial Congress, in Lima, one of the delegates gave details of closely encountering an alien with a slit mouth, slanting eyes and other dolphin-like characteristics. Not long to go, then, before we're all balancing balls on our noses somewhere to the west of Alpha Centauri. In the meantime, 36 dolphins trained to fire toxic darts at terrorists from special neck harnesses are said to be on the loose after escaping from a US Navy compound during Hurricane Katrina. Anybody encountering one is strongly advised not to ask if it does requests.