Charles Nevin: Mr Graham Bell, your call is important to us

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The Independent Online

Happy Monday. Today, remarkably, is the 135th anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell patenting the telephone. To celebrate, and to get you hitting them with renewed freshness and vigour, here are the 10 most popular telephonic communications: 1: "There's no one of that name here." 2: "You're breaking up." 3: "We are in your area at the moment and have some attractive offers on replacement windows." 4: "This call is being recorded for training purposes." 5: "Your call is important to us." 6: "You are number... 31... in the queue." 7: "The number you have dialled has not been recognised." 8: "She's in a meeting." 9: "I told you never to call me here." 10: "Hallo?... Hallo?"

Much of the plentiful research that daily enlightens us could, in my view, benefit from some "joined-up thinking". If you are a man, for example, consider how you might usefully combine the following recent reports: three-quarters of important household decisions are made by women; a glass of wine is good for the brain; a daytime nap is good for the heart.

Excessively priced light bulbs, aircraft carriers without any aircraft: the Ministry of Defence doesn't seem to be terribly good at this cuts business, does it? Perhaps I can help. Have they thought, for example, of consulting the London School of Economics? Say what you like, that's a body which seems highly proficient in money matters. I note, too, that the Chinese army is training 10,000 pigeons to carry messages in the event of a communications breakdown. This is an opportunity for some "blue-sky thinking": an obvious one for the armed services, yes, but given the civil side's success with computer systems, worthy of wider application: how much could we save by replacing the whole electronic shooting match across all government with pmail? It would cheer up the LibDems no end as well, and the North.

Shrove Tuesday tomorrow: Could I just remind you that displays of excess fuelled by too much airborne egg, flour and sugar in preparation for a long period of abstinence (Lent, you must remember) are contrary to the spirit of the Big Society as a much longer period of abstinence is already in place? Thank you.