Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

The domino effect and how difficult it can be for creatures sharing the planet with us
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Happy Monday! And welcome once again to the column which tries really hard to give today a makeover and transform it from the old grumpy, deep-sighing, foot-dragging week-pooper into a happy, jolly, can-do kind of a day! And how do we do this? Why, by reminding you that the world is still a place of wonder and marvel, as almost exclusively evidenced by my round-up of some of the news you might just conceivably have missed. Ready?

Let's start with a literary flavour, in Alaska, where a woman has driven her station wagon into a bookshop in Anchorage seconds before a creative writing group began its meeting in the reading area. No, thank you, I think we'll eschew the crash course gag and try for something a little more highbrow, like the pen not being mightier than the 4x4 (actually, I was hoping for a Ford, but it was, sadly, a Subaru).

I am also narrowly forced to deny that she then got out and asked for The Road Less Travelled, Journey's End, a local A-Z, Quelle Surprise by Lefty Braikov, and anything by Ron Turner. I can confirm, though, and, in fact, swear if you so demand, that she did hit the travel shelves. And that even though it was an open and shut case, she's not been booked.

Next bookshop: in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the place was so gripped by a talk being given by Mildred "Mama Dip" Council, celebrity chef, that no one noticed that a man was robbing the cashier. Memo to security-minded booksellers: you won't have that trouble with Gyles Brandreth, Lord Stevens, or Robbie Fowler.

Staying in the abrupt acquisition area, the FBI has detained a 19-year-old woman suspected of robbing four banks in Virginia while talking on her mobile phone (the demand for money was achieved by use of the traditional note). "Hello, I'm in the bank. These queues don't get any shorter, though. Doing anything tonight? Thought we might get together, you know, or something. Hang on a second ... just put it in there, will you, or I'll drill you full of lead, cheers ... where were we, oh, yes, you coming over or what?" Apparently they had to call her to tell her she was arrested: "Ur nkd".

Can't stop progress

More phone news. I was most impressed to read that Rentokil has developed a mousetrap with text facilities. "hlp!" "ok, u gt me bng 2 rts, iL cm kwitly", "dis chees bt hrd". But further investigation reveals that there is no cheese, the trap gases them, and the message announces the kill to the pest controller for disposal purposes. "hsta l vsta, ms ttlmse!" Progress, eh?

Elsewhere, some more examples of how difficult it can be sharing the planet with us. First, a spot of bother in the Netherlands after a sparrow got into the room where more than 100 people from 12 countries had been spending more than a month setting up four million dominoes in an attempt on the world record. Well, quite an eponymous effect, as you might imagine: 23,000 down, I'm afraid, before the bird was trapped in a corner and shot. Bit of a row, as you might imagine, particularly as it had just picked up a double six.

And, over in Thailand, guests at the opening night of a new zoo in Chiang Mai are being given the chance to eat the animals as well as look at them. Yes, "the exotic buffet" will include tiger, lion, elephant and giraffe. Marvellous. Conservationists, apparently, "have voiced concern that Thailand does not have a good track record of wildlife management and conservation", and, frankly, I'm not surprised. Not the moment, I suppose, either, for the one about getting me an alligator sandwich and making it snappy. Ah, well. Sorry.

Mistaken identity

You might think that nothing could top those two, but you would be reckoning without Germany, which rarely fails. And so to Neuwied, in the Rhineland, where train passengers were left stranded after the driver mistook a giant toy penguin on the line for a dead man in a dinner jacket. "We are at a loss to explain the presence of this very large penguin," said a police spokesman. "We would think you would notice if you lost something like this." Quite, but I have to say I'm slightly more worried about the driver's eyesight. Good thing it wasn't in Italy, either, as it could have been a nun.

Staying with religion, and there's been a bold attempt at halting declining church attendances in Auburn, California, where the New Life Christian Church has been offering discounts on petrol. I have not yet established whether "Jesus saves 50 cents a gallon" is an approved slogan, but, in the meantime, I should like to quote from Exodus, "I have raised you up for this purpose, that I might show you my power," and, from Samuel, "Fill your vessel with oil, and go!"

Finally, while we are contemplating matters metaphysical, I leave you with Mr Zaus Walker, who was shot dead last week in Orlando, Florida. Paramedics trying to save him noticed that the bullet had struck his chest only inches away from a tattoo reading, "Why me?" Makes you think, as does the case of Mr Andrew Webster, a Detroit bank robber identified by the tattoo on the inside of his right arm reading, "Dumb". Untl nxt wk?