Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

Snort some cheese, tell your kids the ice-cream man has run out, and have a Happy Monday!
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The Independent Online

Happy Monday! How's it all going? Hmm. That bad. Well, Santa's not having a great time, either, let me tell you. Nicked for doing 92mph in a 60mph area near Munster. No, Germany. Said he was late for a party at an old peoples' home where he was going to be handing out presents, so they must have been waiting a long time. But the really good news is that he was fined and banned for three months. Just show this to the children and that's all your problems solved.

What if they ask if he'll be coming when the ban is over? I'd go for the 29 February option. Another tip, for the summer: tell them that when the ice-cream man sounds his chimes it means he's run out. It's always worked for me. Back to the seasonal now, although I think we'll avoid Santa's trouble with his trousers in the shopping mall in Salem, New Hampshire, and move swiftly on to celebrate, yes, the second case this season of a thief being tracked home by his footprints in the snow. Indeedy: Lansdale, Pennsylvania, auto-repair shop, man arrested at home a block away. When are these people going to realise that you have to walk backwards if you want to get away with it?

Pizza express, to jail

Another Napoleon of Crime has been in a spot of bother in Ålesund, Norway, where he tried to pay the pizza man with a credit card he stole from the pizza man's car two nights before. How he ever thought he'd get hawaii with it, I don't know. Elsewhere, another pizza man, a Mr Truong, in Darwin, Australia, has been fined for speeding while doing a rush delivery to police officers, which seems a little like clay pigeon shooting to me. Too fast food, at any rate. Did you know, by the way, that the Hawaiian pizza is not particularly popular in Hawaii? They prefer straight cheese and ham, particularly in the capital. Sorry? Honolulu? No, on a thin crust base.

More cheese and crime: a woman has been arrested after hiring a gunman to break into a house in Memphis and steal a block of cheese, which she had mistaken for cocaine. An easy error, obviously, so just be careful to check the next time you have some rarebit, or it could play absolute havoc with your chances of ending up in the Shadow Cabinet. It certainly helps explain Wallace and Gromit, too.

Less explicable is the case of two pensioners in Milan who have been advertising hi-tech electronic equipment for sale on the internet, taking the money, and then sending out sacks of potatoes instead. You're ahead of me, but I've checked: chips are fritte, while microchips are chips. Perhaps they've been on the cheese, which is, interestingly enough, cacio.

Actually, as it happens, in Latin American Spanish, la papa is potato, while el papa is the Pope, whom, I see, has just been presented with one of Michael Schumacher's steering wheels by Ferrari, inscribed thus: "The steering wheel of the Formula 1 World Champion to His Holiness Benedict XVI, the driver of Christianity." I should have thought it would have been more apt to give it to a Cardinal.

Tread carefully

All this brings us to survey time: did you see the one about 12 per cent of motorists getting out of the car when angry and kicking their own tyres? Marvellous. I should at this point pass on a tip on buying second-hand cars that I got from a member of the trade a little time ago: nothing shows your lack of knowledge more than kicking the tyres. Much better to go round the back and press down on the boot to check the suspension. Don't mention it.

It doesn't add up

Meanwhile, an Australian mathematician has published a research paper applying intermediate value theory to the problem of wobbly tables. It also works very well if you put it under one of the legs. You'll certainly have seen the research into bats, too, showing that the bigger the size of the testicles, the smaller the brain. Enormously important and ground-breaking, but I couldn't find anything on whether all that hanging upside down had anything to do with it. However, I'm willing to give it a go, even though I've always been told it's more to do with the size of the ears (nothing personal, Andrew). And then there was the work on yawning carried out on monkeys. Yes, that's right, very small brains, monkeys. No, that's only when it's very cold. Anyway, the results were not conclusive. "Almost all animals yawn," said a pyschologist from Stirling University, "but we don't know why they yawn; we don't know what the function is." I'd give her lectures a miss, then.

Pretty exciting in Odessa, though, where a student got his arm trapped down the lavatory last Wednesday while trying to rescue his mobile phone at the State Academy of Refrigeration. He kept cool, apparently.

Verdi naughty

Finally, if, in spite of all this, you do find yourself yawning, here's an idea. The Lyric in Chicago is putting on Rigoletto and is looking for extras. Both courtesans and countesses needed, and men who can slide down ropes. But if you've got any As at A-level I shouldn't bother if I were you, as they want you to wear "physique-revealing" outfits. Until next week?