Multicoloured salads and other disturbances

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The Independent Online
Two things I forgot to mention about Nigel Lawson last week:

1. "Nigel has a quirky thing about multicoloured salads. [He] gets upset by violent colour contrasts." Tomatoes and lettuce, for instance.

2. His wife does not like the smell of fish cooking.

I SEE Jacques Chirac had the same trouble talking to Palestinians that other travellers to Israel encounter. Like Britain with its voice-ban on Gerry Adams, the Israelis won't listen to the Palestinians, and they don't like anyone else listening to them either. And yet they claim to be the only democracy in the Middle East.

In Israel's favour, I was once given an unbeatable aubergine-and-garlic sandwich in Haifa. This was before the poppy-seed cake that nearly killed me (how was I to know it wasn't chocolate?).

Tourism is a hit-and-miss sort of business.

DON'T know about Chirac himself, but according to Francoscopie, a survey including 10,000 facts about contemporary French life, the average French person buys as many pairs of slippers as toothbrushes (1.2 a year), and 39 per cent believe in extra-terrestrials. I guess it's some comfort to know you've got your slippers on when you're abducted by aliens.

This puts them out of step with the Pope, who has decided to bow to science on the tricky issue of evolution. His concession: "If the human body has its origins in pre-existing living matter, the soul was created directly from God." Pre-existing living matter? Makes Eden sound like a slaughterhouse. All the poetry's gone out of religion.

That's why we turn for spiritual elevation to the paranormal. We have faith, we want to believe the reassurances of astrologers, the absurdities of The X Files, and that psychics and their sidekicks can solve crimes. If the paranormal were just a little more forthcoming, we wouldn't be waiting for scientists to confirm or explain its existence.

Who needs scientists anyway? Do I really need to be told that light travels in straight lines? Like I care. I also think I could get through life (and will probably have to) without understanding how radio waves or computers or toasters work. In fact, I'd be a much happier person if I hadn't read this week that foetuses feel pain at six weeks. What has science brought us? Compulsory liver transplants, incredible arrogance, mortal anxiety and toxic waste.

So I'm full of approval for this week's story from the Fortean Times of a woman in Norway who lost her wedding ring on a roadside three years ago. When carving up a moose recently that her husband had shot, she found her ring stuck in its throat. Uncanny huh? I feel sorry for the moose but I like the homing pigeon behaviour of the ring. There's a pair of ear-rings I lost in some man's bed several years ago which I wouldn't mind seeing again. I am waiting for the paranormal to provide. But not if it entails disembowelling a moose.

SIX months is like three-and-a-half years to a dog! If the quarantine laws aren't inhuman, they're certainly unmammalian. And outmoded: there has long been a virtually infallible rabies vaccine, the effectiveness of which can be confirmed by a blood test. Domestic animals are accustomed to human affection and settees, not incarceration. No other animal goes through all this on suspicion of having a contagious disease. We're even expected to eat British beef.

IF I hear one more time that Jerry Hall's a housewife in the kitchen and a whore in the parlour, I'll hang up my pinny, my red satin cammy knickers and my toilet brush for good.

SPEAKING of housework, there was news this week of a woman in Oregon who's got the answer: turn your house into a sort of gigantic dishwasher. Her walls have been painted in several coats of waterproof paint, the floors have been varnished eight times, the books are in self-sealing dust-jackets and the furniture is made out of water-resistant materials. Then all she has to do is open a valve, press a button and ceiling-sprays rinse and dry the house from top to bottom in 45 minutes. The used water then flows into the fireplaces (cleaning them out, too) and is directed out of the house through the dog kennel, bathing the Great Dane on the way. If she has any dirty clothes, she just puts them on hangers and leaves them in the room during the wash cycle. It is best to bring an umbrella.

Parents maniacal about the convergence of babies and germs would love it, but all it actually conquers is the vacuuming, dusting and floor washing. Pre-wash tidying up would become all-important, or you'd find most of your belongings down the plug-hole in the fireplace. And you're still left with the cooking, ironing, shopping, whoring and sewing name- tags on school uniforms.

THE interesting thing about Iran's answer to the Barbie doll is that the "Sara" doll has plump facial features and looks quite dumpy under her chador. Perhaps they should sell them in the West to save our girls from anorexia. But those chadors have got to go. Let's find Sara some Day-glo coloured casuals.

"KNIFE shops are a symbol of evil." What about petrol stations, tobacconists, chemists that sell cosmetics tested on animals, newsagents that sell the Sun? What about sports shops, hunting and fishing shops, fur shops, sweet shops, obscure record shops, motorbike shops and shops that sell huge pieces of leather-bound furniture? Perhaps it's the world that's evil.

ANOTHER Nigel Lawson diet trick: "When I find myself at a dinner where an indifferent wine is being offered, I politely decline on the grounds that I am driving." So, if you're worried about Nigel drinking and driving, just give him plonk.