The magnetic attraction of useless cures

'I bought the inner soles. I put them in my shoes. I wore them for a month. Nothing happened'

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Having resolutely worn them for a month, I've decided to ditch my magnetic inner soles. It was originally my friend Nicky's idea to try magnet therapy. Unlike most of my friends she is an eminently practical person, hence my acquiescence, albeit reluctant, to participate in something that I would normally dismiss as a load of old rubbish. Here's an example of her efficiency. We were supposed to be driving to Hammersmith to meet someone for lunch. We got into Nicky's car, a battered and extremely dirty Jeep smelling of curdled milk, wet dog and dung. Unlike most of my friends, Nicky is horsey. The car refused to start. "Damn, it's doing it again," she said, got out and yanked the bonnet open.

This in itself was impressive. In my 20 years as a driver I don't believe I ever once opened the bonnet of a car. Even if I'd known how to, it would have been of as much use as opening a Japanese newspaper to find out what was on TV. A couple of minutes later, Nicky shut the bonnet, got in, switched on the ignition and off we went. "Gosh," I said admiringly, "what was wrong, and how did you fix it?" It was something to do with the electronics, she said vaguely. She'd smeared the wires with Body Shop strawberry lip gloss, but peppermint worked just as well.

It may have been that very day that the subject of magnet therapy came up. I was probably telling her about my latest arthritis cure - kelp coffee, psychic surgery, green-lipped mussel pills; or was it the woman in Dorset who claims she can send electro-analytical impulses down the telephone to purify your lymphatic system for the price of a local call? None of them worked. "You should try wearing a magnetic bracelet," said Nicky. "I've worn one for years, and every time Boris (her horse) gets arthritis I strap one round his fetlock and it's gone in a week."

What's good enough for Boris is good enough for me. I borrowed his bracelet, strapped my own fetlock for a couple of weeks, and subsequently added it to my list of useless arthritis cures. The magnetic inner soles were my sister-in-law's idea.

A friend in New York with chronic arthritis, she said, swore by them. Everyone in America has a friend with arthritis who swears by something, thus my flirtation with kelp coffee, green-lipped mussel pills and telephonic lymph purifiers from Dorset.

What exactly are magnetic inner soles, I asked Morven? She sent me to a seminar organised by the Japanese mail-order company that sells them. The first surprise is that it isn't just inner soles. Everything they sell contains magnets: office furniture, beds, duvets, pillows, belts, braces, you name it, they'll magnetise it. I like the pillows, great billowing balloons full of goose down with four brick-like magnetic lumps at each corner. The woman beside me, clearly a plant, said she was a lifetime sufferer from migraine until she slept on a magnetic pillow. The man on my other side said that his 85-year-old father from Skipton had been a cripple until he slept on a magnetic bed. Now he was racing about, pulling barmaids, running marathons, and digging his allotment until midnight. I suggested that the magnetic inner soles would have suited his lifestyle better. Apart from everything else they were cheaper. The bed was £1,000, the inner soles £40. Get both, said the man - clearly another plant.

I bought the inner soles. They were made of black metal, smooth on one side, bumpy on the other, reversible, if I needed a massage. I put them in my shoes. I wore them for a month. Nothing happened, except now and again I felt a bit queasy.

My husband looked at the box. "Did you read the instructions?" he said. "It says 'Caution. Do not wear your inner soles when using a computer, a mobile telephone or standing next to high-voltage machinery.' " Good grief. I went on the London Eye wearing them. Never mind the arthritis, I'm lucky to be alive.

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