Charles Nevin: Where there's brass, there's, er, brass ...

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The Independent Online

Observers of current affairs are not unused to the unusual; that is, after all, a large part of the definition of news. Currently, though, affairs have certainly hit a rich vein of form. Perhaps it's the friskiness of spring, or maybe the Test activity at Lords has brought a reminder that the season to be silly will be soon upon us. Then again, it might be just an urgent universal desire to upstage David Blaine.

From politics, we expect it; even so, things do seem to be especially inspired at present: I was particularly taken with the suggestion that the new agriculture supremo, David Miliband, might be a vegetarian; almost as much as with Britain's top caravanner becoming Foreign Secretary. And you will have heard Mrs Blair's latest bon mot, blaming the collapse of the Cabinet on a dodgy screw.

Economic matters, though, normally manage to invest what many see as the essential folly of existence with a bit of hard reality. But not in the matter of the sharply rising price of metals. How entrancing that twopenny pieces should be worth threepence when melted down! In tribute to those legendary days of hyper inflation, this should be designated the Reverse Wheelbarrow Effect.

Time to exercise some prudent foresight. Better to stay in after dark for any number of reasons, but particularly as thefts of manhole covers, which the authorities are always looking into, will accelerate. Already there are reports from Jamaica, China, India, and South Bend, Indiana. In Baltimore, meanwhile, they're stealing aluminium lamp posts; in Rouen, it's copper wire from railway tracks; and in Honolulu there has been a steady flow of thefts of brass toilet flush valves, which police think are connected.

What to do in a rare-metal society? Be vigilant. Turn your back and your car will be some way off, compressed into a neat little cube, from which can just be heard the muffled distress of the satnav system. If you have gold fillings, do not go to sleep with your mouth open. How are you for staples, paper clips and pencils? Locked in the stationery cabinet? And what is that made of? And where is it? Arrgh! You do realise that we might be facing life without surveillance cameras? And no point getting a gun, as you'll just have to guard that as well. And think of the effect on Western economies if arms get too expensive.

Expect Dave Cameron in a pony and trap any time now (or more likely, a bandwagon). Read Jane Austen for tips. Buy wood. And another worry if we're going to regress: archaeologists have just revealed that Stone Age Britain was violent.

All very unsettling, and not helped by another report, on red wine. Now, I'm used to red wine being good for you one moment and bad the next, but the latest report has broken remarkable new ground by claiming it can ward off deafness. It protects those tiny hairs in the inner ear, apparently. But I fear this might have come too late, as, at these prices, no one is going to be dropping pins, and you'll be very lucky to find a corkscrew.

In any event, I find red wine has an unsettling effect on my temper, which needs calm to counter all this giddiness. Were you aware, for example, that Sir Sean Connery has written a ballet and that the Arctic explorer, Bear Grylls, got trapped in a lavatory last week? Still, at least David Miliband has been seen eating a chicken sandwich.

Come to the aid of the party

How distressing that the dinner party is in decline, victim of busy lives and eating out, as there is no finer opportunity for enjoying intelligent conversation and examining collages of holiday snaps in the lavatory.

The DP merely requires light tinkering. The fare need not be painstaking, but novel. I can still recall the hilarity when I served the rhubarb and apple pie provided by my mum only to discover that it was, in fact, steak and kidney. Marvellous.

Novelty, and variety. Hosts often ask guests to swop places after the main course. I make them change every time my James Last background music stops (which is quite often!).

Guests, though, of course, are key. For your inspiration, this is my ideal mix: Wayne Rooney, Ruth Kelly, Julian Clary, Angela Merkel, Huw Edwards, Ruth Badger, The Rev Dr Ian Paisley and Tracey Temple.

* Interesting times, too, in the communications business. The problems of putting the right message across were sharply illustrated when the BBC conducted an interview on internet music with a taxi driver rather than the expert he had driven to the studio.

In Thailand, meanwhile, the world's first internet dog radio station was launched, featuring 10 barking DJs. These ones, however, have been recruited from Mr Anupan Boonchuen's dog grooming school.

And then there were the Irish priests whose illegal broadcasts of Mass to housebound parishioners are endangering aircraft overhead by causing static in their radio reception, which seems to me to raise questions of a theological depth unmatched since, in the interests of universal tolerance, atheists in Oslo were given permission to broadcast the chant "There is no God" from a rooftop every Friday.

Truly, it is, as the late Louis Armstrong used to remind us, a wonderful world.

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