Charles Nevin: You can find a Law of anything these days

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The Independent Online

Anyone even idly studying human affairs will soon detect certain trends not immediately attributable to human agency. This has, in the past, led to the belief that there must be an external power, directing; Hamlet, you may recall, was pretty clear on that point, at least. As is Richard Dawkins.

Well, repetitious, cliche-ridden, full of loose ends, and often in the most dubious taste, certainly. And quite a mix of messages. The one I've felt most temperamentally inclined towards and noticed most in operation is Sod's Law, which besides being grim, satisfying and pithy - anything that can go wrong, will - makes no attempt to give credit for this vale of tears to luck or intent.

Now, though, I see, that indefatigable social formulator, Dr Cliff Arnall, of Cardiff University, has come up with one to combat Sod's Law, based on a belief that factors such as importance and preparation, concentrated by pessimism, can defeat it.

Do you know, call me a pessimist, but I'm not so sure. See what you think. Here are some random examples of events . Last week a Canadian company marketing an internet website spell-checking programme issued a press release which spelt "web", "we." Plainly one for preparation. What, however, of the three men who escaped from the Warakirri Correctional Centre at Ivanhoe, New South Wales, travelled more than 125 miles, and then were arrested when they tried to hitch a lift from an unmarked police car at Buronga? "Crime doesn't pay," "Cheats never prosper"? Hmm.

On the other hand, to be fair to Dr Arnall, misfeasance is packed with incidents underlining the importance of preparation and concentration: the thief in Poland who stole a new BMW from outside a florist but failed to notice that the driver had left his 80-year-old grandfather on the back seat; the bank robber in Zagreb who hadn't realised it was early-closing day and was observed rattling the doors holding a gun and wearing a mask; the post office robbers in Lancashire who left with the bag of strawberries rather than the one with the cash in it; the rollerblading police squad in Hyde Park scrapped when they found they couldn't chase criminals over grass.

In other fields, one thinks, obviously, of Peter Nesselthaler, the German businessman, who, after that bear which had been on the loose in Bavaria was shot recently, found himself left with hundreds of T-shirts bearing the slogan, "You'll never catch me."

But, equally, there are some eventualities which are harder to anticipate: Scott Buetow, of Illinois, is suing his marriage guidance counsellor for having an affair with Mrs Buetow. Then again, should Carl Smith and his stag party have established the Pope was visiting Cracow at the same time and that alcohol would be banned as a mark of respect?

Should the Norwegian who left his window open in Tonsberg have expected to find a badger asleep under his bed when he got back? Not entirely explained, then. And I should like to see some work, too, on these related laws. Prescott's Law: anything that can go wrong will if I have anything to do with it. Utilities Law: Up. Tony's Law: ask George. George's Law: ask God. God's Law: ask George. Beckett's Law: no overtaking on hills. Beckett's Bodyguard's Law: No more choruses of Ging Gang Goolee after 10.30, even if she is Foreign Secretary. And there's a terrific one involving George Michael, but I'm bound to run out of

The lost sheep of summer

Some of us are getting excited, as tomorrow marks the official start of our favourite season, the Silly one. Early indications are promising: monkeys have escaped from London Zoo, Lyme Regis has banned eel slapping, and there's a fuss at the Royal Welsh Show over a stripper who got her discarded thong back on the end of a pitchfork.

Animals mostly: that's traditional. And, for some reason, lost in the myths of bygone summers, sheep are tops. Already we have had sheep in Germany being fitted with miniature wellingtons to prevent infection, and one in Wales that thinks it's a sheepdog. Now we wait, tensely, for the annual outing of the Season's sine qua non: the Yorkshire sheep who have learned to roll over cattle grids.

Now that the astonishment has dissipated slightly over what a fine place Hoylake proved for an Open, I invite you to follow episcopal advice, eschew abroad, and explore the rest of the North West littoral, known, naturally, as the Golf Coast.

There are more than links, too. Blackpool needs no benediction, but Morecambe needs a break if you do. If you also need persuading, Michael Bracewell's splendid work, I Know Where I'm Going, recounts how the French designer, Coco Chanel, used to stay at the town's art deco gem, the Midland Hotel, landing her flying boat in the Bay. Of course it's true. And they're reopening the Midland next year.

* Meanwhile, another fine break for the non-flyer is a trip to an airport. Other people's bothered crush is a marvellous tonic, I find.

And the better-natured can restore faltering faith in humanity by spending time at Arrivals watching the parted re-united in beaming, glistening, artless affection.

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