The Third Leader: Sea-mail

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Interesting intelligence from Whangamata, on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, where James Wilson, six, has found a bottle containing a message seven weeks after Keely Reid, six, cast it into the Moray Firth.

It's beguiling that such timeless and innocent pastimes should have survived into the age of instant communication; even so, the general urgency is clearly catching, as the bottle appears to have achieved an average speed of 18mph, which is faster than the record under sail, or, for that matter, a postman on a bicycle.

What's going on? Human agency is suspected, but I am thinking about a whale, and Jonah, or, possibly, a dolphin relay race. They can get up to 30mph, you know. At any rate, something to think about, perhaps over a glass of cider, another popular feature of the past which, as we report, has also been making startling advances.

Taken with ice now, as you will have noticed, and very popular with female drinkers. Too much to hope, I suppose, that the smock might also make a comeback, unless Grayson Perry could be persuaded to take an interest; the Wurzels are still going, though, and, indeed, can be caught in Honiton next Friday.

Finally, in an example of past practice complementing modern technique, I note that the Oxbridge oddball interview gambit is still going strong; they used to say "surprise me" to would-be undergraduates, which could be dangerous, or, occasionally, throw something at them: catch it, a place; throw it back, scholarship. Now, it's "are you cool?", which seems equally clever. Perhaps they could ask them about the bottle, too.

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