One or three things to worry about

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THREE things troubling me this week: Jane Austen's alleged homosexuality, news that manual typewriters are no longer being produced, and the fact that I really didn't need that last dental x-ray. The connection between these disagreeable home truths may at first seem insubstantial, but bear with me. I intend to prove an indissoluble link between the sharp practice of dentists and the end of the world as we know it.

Of course, no one likes a dentist. They are the lowest of the low: failed doctors. In the normal course of their existence, dentists wield a terrible power. But what has gone unrecognised until now is the extent of their role in government policy. Pretending to be unaware of the exact strength of their own x-ray machines, and the fact that, even unactivated, these machines are constantly leaking radioactivity into the dentist's chair, the dentist's surgery, the dentist's fish-tank and the waiting room, dentists have been in league with the government in zapping us with radiation for years.

Once we were all too gaga to know what was going on any more, the government began winding down public transport systems, supposedly in the interests of a whimsical free market. And then they try to confuse and blame the populace by bidding us not to use our cars on hot days.

Do they really believe that, even though we're radioactive, we don't notice it's the government's transportation blunders that have made the air so polluted we're all choking to death in our beds? Which (the pollution combined with the incessant coughing) is no doubt responsible for the striking climatic change we have endured this summer. There's no real need for this heatwave, after all, when sheep are dying, dying of the cold in Tierra del Fuego, when Florida has suffered a storm, and when half of China is awash with floods. (But if I understand chaos theory aright, the choking incidents in England could well be causing sheep deaths in the Southern Hemisphere.)

To return to my admittedly complex analysis of the situation, it is my belief that the government for its own sinister purposes has been making the British increasingly and, given the national character, quite unnaturally, reliant on electricity. Brainwashed by unscrupulous advertising and the obvious advantages of night-time lighting, we have taken electricity to our bosoms far too readily.

The government has eagerly reduced us to a state of unwitting dependency. We are slaves of electricity. We cannot cook without it, we cannot extract milk from cows without it. Most of us could not exist without television and word processors, which depend for their existence on electricity. Newspapers could not be produced without it. Thus, free speech is in peril.

For they could just SWITCH IT OFF. The electricity companies, in cahoots with the government and taking their strategies straight out of any dentistry handbook, could switch it all off at any time and hold us to ransom, insisting on everyone paying pounds 10,000 extra on their bills before they'll turn it back on again. Even if you think it unlikely that our electricity companies might be harbouring evil intentions towards us (though nothing could be more likely) what about terrorists? A determined sabotage of the National Grid and we'd be back in the Stone Age - minus flint arrowheads, strong constitutions and anyone who could draw a decent bull on the wall.

No television, no milking parlours, no ice-cream parlours, no hairdressing salons, no pinball arcades, no lawn-mowers, no computers. The only people who would still be typing away would be those like me, using my ancient manual machine passed down thorough generations. But I would be hampered in distributing my words of wisdom and comfort to a wide audience, because my FAX machine wouldn't work, and of course (they think of everything) we've been told not to use our cars. THIS is why they are no longer manufacturing manual typewriters, and why it is also impossible to find a competent typewriter repairer. The current plague of wasps is no coincidence, either. It's a conspiracy.

Our heads glowing with dentist-induced radioactivity, we'll congregate in dark disused bus shelters to contemplate our fate. This is nothing new of course - all horror and disaster movies strive for this: humanity reduced to the mere struggle to survive on an inhospitable planet. The human fantasy world abounds in such stuff. And sometimes we give in to temptation and make it come true. Surely it's impossible to trust anyone in a world in which people not only dreamt up the atom bomb but actually used it. Twice.

And so we come to Professor Terry Castle's imaginative article on Jane Austen in the London Review of Books. I always thought Jane Austen was as sexually deprived as I am. Now it turns out she was having a gay old time with her sister, Cassandra. So it is only me who isn't getting any. But who cares anyway in this heat.

Wallace Arnold is on holiday