creativity making 1996 someone else's problem

Owing to the sudden and unexpected arrival of 1996, we regret the delay in the arrival of the promised mad cows, which will now appear next week. Today, before it is too late, here is the pick of readers' ideas for things to do with 1996.

Ninety-six, or quatre-vingts-seize, is, as several readers pointed out, not nearly as promising a sexual diversion as its transposition. Like 69, however, it may be inverted without damage.

Helen McPhail advises turning over the whole of 1996 "so it can be put back in the cupboard until 9661 and become a future generation's problem." Rev HW Hewitt has a similar idea, but advises filling the round bits of 9661 with contemporary artefacts, to let our 300-times great-grandchildren know a little about us.

Frank Card suggests abolishing it altogether, to reduce the election campaign to just a few months. Or extending it, to defer 1997 and hang on to Hong Kong for a little longer. His most profitable idea, however, is to privatise it, offering franchises on each month, the whole thing to be regulated by Offyear.

Martin Brown also proposes privatisation, but under the regulation of TimeOff. He sees it as a first stage to the privatisation of time itself.

Michael Rubinstein thinks it just the year to make a resolution not to make resolutions. "The ensuing relief will render 1996 an exceptional year for tensing and relaxation without the self-recrimination common to previous years."

"Politics-wise," says Duncan Bull oxymoronically, "1996 promises to be a complete and utter waste of time." He advises fast-forwarding to 1997.

Linda Browning points out that whatever we do with 1996, it will be thought to have gone quickly, so we'd better do it soon before it goes missing. Len Clarke thinks we should have 1996 twice, to satisfy pedants who insist that the new millennium doesn't start until 2001.

AJ Brewer points out that 1996 has 53 Mondays, providing an extra opportunity for Creativity, if we hadn't missed one last week. But not so good, he points out, for sufferers from that Monday-morning feeling. Since it's a leap year, however, there will be 53 Tuesdays, too.

Back with the turn-it-upside-down school, Ann Phillips mentions what a successful year 966 was, with King Edgar still on the throne and a long break in Viking invasions. Gerry Kandler recommends collecting as many artefacts with 1996 stamped on them as possible, burying them, and wrecking the careers of sloppy archaeologists of the future, who will be unable to determine whether they are cataloguing items from 1996 or 9661.

Prizes to Frank Card, AJ Brewer and Linda Browning.

Following Prof Richard Dawkins's recent refutation of astrology, we are concerned for practitioners of this ancient art, many of whom are trained for nothing else. Any ideas for things to do with astrologers, or convincing deductions of what star sign Prof Dawkins was born under, should be sent to: Creativity, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.

Prizes of the Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore will be awarded to the most appropriate suggestions. (Congratulations to Stuart Cockerill for correctly predicting that astrologers would be the object this week.)