News from Elsewhere: If you're going to resuscitate a hamster with the kiss of life, make sure it isn't hibernating

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Hi, Reader. Good day. Ave. Welcome. How do you do? I've used those several forms of introduction, formal and informal, ancient and modern, because I want to stress that this is an inclusive, big-tent kind of column. No quotas here! No topic will be turned away, although I must stress that the remit is very much long-view, big-picture, counter-intuitive, left-field and off-agenda, with a strong bias towards animal stories.

Hi, Reader. Good day. Ave. Welcome. How do you do? I've used those several forms of introduction, formal and informal, ancient and modern, because I want to stress that this is an inclusive, big-tent kind of column. No quotas here! No topic will be turned away, although I must stress that the remit is very much long-view, big-picture, counter-intuitive, left-field and off-agenda, with a strong bias towards animal stories.

This week, for example, I want to think about the post-industrial society. And if there are to be very few manufacturing jobs, it seems to me vital that we should be creating some new non-manufacturing ones. I've done a bit of brainstorming already. You might want to take notes. Ready?

Off the top, we could certainly do with someone employed simply to count how many times Jeremy Paxman asks the same question, as I have noticed a bit of a discrepancy in recent reports. The introduction of an independent Institute of U-turns and Big Fibs Studies would save a lot of unpleasantness. Charles Clarke could do with a tailor. John Prescott needs a counsellor. You hardly ever come across a celebrity chef. It can also be tricky getting a taxi from Westbury station some evenings.

Preliminary, as I say. And you might argue, with some justification, that there's not a great deal of volume there. I've thought about that, too. Did you see the report the other day about Doug Little, a Portsmouth firefighter, saving a hamster with the kiss of life? Well, I've done some research. Redbridge, 2004: firefighter revives a black-and-white cat. Erskine, 2002: firefighter revives a Yorkshire terrier. Lanarkshire, 1998: farmer revives pig found floating face down in pool: "I thought we'd lost him. But he gave a little cough just as I was giving up, so I kept going." Bournemouth, 2004: a retiring watch commander reveals that he gave a hamster the kiss of life once, only to discover that it had been hibernating.

How much time was wasted on that hibernating hamster? How much of a shock must it have been for the hamster? Don't our hard-pressed firefighters have enough to do without this extra responsibility? So: obvious, urgent need: a national network of rapid-response highly trained animal resuscitation teams. Jobs, and an almost certain TV series spin-off, more jobs, Rolf Harris, Alan Titchmarsh if Rolf's busy. Imagine the tension as the message crackles through: "It's a Gloucester Old Spot and he's in a pretty bad way." Tony, Michael, Charles: ideal campaign filliper, I should have said. Next!

The Balzac Awards

Balzac, Honoré de. Top French writer, wrote lots, some of it rather good. We, today, here, though, are concerned with just the one piece of masterly perception. "Irony," he wrote, "is the essence of the character of Providence."

Very good, Honoré, and celebrated here from time to time with The Balzac Awards. The first contender today is the German burglar admitted to hospital in Beuel with appendicitis and put in the bed next to the policeman who had been hunting him for two months. The second is a Cheshire chicken called Lucky which helped its owner pick out winning lottery numbers until it was eaten by a fox. Thank you. More Balzacs very soon!

Sea news!

And scientists have discovered that fish find their way back to reefs by listening out to the sounds of reef life, for example, "the sound of other fish grinding their teeth and shrimps snapping". Now what, do you think, makes a shrimp snap? Or a fish grind its teeth? A clue, I think, was provided by another story, the one about the hundreds of whales which suddenly started pounding and crashing into a single-handed yachtsman's boat in the Channel, puzzling all available experts. But not me. The whales are as fed up as the teeth-grinding fish and snapping shrimps. What are they saying? They are saying, "That's enough lone sailors."

Transport

Interesting times. Everyone knows about the frozen sausage that came flying through the window of a car in South Woodham Ferrers last week, breaking the driver's nose. And then there was the kangaroo seen hopping along the side of the road between Ide Hill and Sundridge in Kent. Well, I've consulted the maps, and it's just possible that it might have been the kangaroo, B1012 from South Woodham Ferrers, A132, A13, and then onto the M25, over the Dartford Crossing, and off at Junction 5 for Sundridge. Don't forget they can reach 30 mph flat out and average 15 mph, so it would easily have had time for a break at Thurrock services. I should check that pouch if I were you, Lewis.

Meanwhile, a bit of a breakthrough in Poland: a tram in Krakow that follows routes decided by a majority of the passengers. We've got talking bus stops here, but nothing to touch that! Must be terrific fun on a Monday morning voting where to go, although I'm not sure how much choice you've got, on a tram. Tell you what: if you're on a tram now, or even better, a bus, why don't you suggest it? Have a look around - of course they're up for it, they're just a bit sleepy, that's all! How far are you from the coast? All together: "We're going where the sun shines brightly, we're going where the sea is blue ..." Go on! Ding, ding! That's the ticket, bye, see you next week!

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