Legbreaks in the bar
IT'S ASTONISHING where you can learn new facts. I was at the Street Shelter for the Over-Forties the other evening, toying idly with a glass, when the barmaid showed me something extraordinary a ball made entirely of tightly wrapped elastic bands.
It started with one elastic band rolled into a ball. Others were added, tightly wrapped round and round, making the ball gradually bigger. Today it's grown to the size of a cricket ball and the elastic bands are now pretty well stretched to fit on.
The elastic bands are from the label on the bottle of a popular brand of red wine that has been selling briskly in the cold weather. The bar staff have been building up the ball for the past few weeks.
It now looks like the inside of a golf ball if you cut it open strands of rubber stretched to a point where they simply want to explode. Except, of course, that this is on a different scale, the size of a cricket ball. It bounces beautifully.
As a former legbreak bowler of note, this was not to be resisted. I put down a couple of deliveries right there in the Street Shelter which turned so beautifully, Shane Warne himself would have been green with envy. The habitués applauded.
If this cold weather continues, that cricket ball will be the size of a football in no time. When I mentioned this, the barmaid told me a curious story. Somewhere overseas, she said, they kept adding elastic bands until the ball had a diameter the height of a man.
They were curious to know how it would bounce if dropped from a height, so they chartered an aeroplane to test it. Several thousand feet up, they opened the aircraft door and rolled out the giant elastic band ball.
"And d'you know what happened?"
"It bounced back and hit the aeroplane?"
"No, it just exploded and left a huge hole in the ground."
And that, children, is how the Grand Canyon formed.
AS ANY SEASONED foreign correspondent knows, the briefing you get from the taxi driver who picks you up at the airport is often the most valuable one of the assignment. He will express the vox populi what people really think is going on. He will tell you who is on the make, who is a shyster and who is not. He will tell you the scandal, sexual and otherwise. The taxi driver is loquacious as any barber. And usually very well informed.
But in Norway the prime minister seems to have bucked the system. Prime Minister Jeus Stoltenberg recently put on a taxi driver's uniform and took a cab out on the streets for a day, just to find out what people of thinking and saying.
As he puts it: "It's important for me to hear what people really think. If there's one place where people say what they think, it's in the taxi."
We're not told what kind of information he collected as elections loom next month - in which he faces an uphill battle - though a hidden camera and recorder picked up: "From this angle he looks like the prime minister."
But if Mr Stoltenberg really wants to know what's likely to happen in September, he needs to reverse roles. He needs to put on a false beard and ride around in taxis, asking the professional drivers what they think of the prime minister and his chances in the election.
It might turn out unwelcome but that's the way to find out.
NORTH Korea is reported to be manufacturing its own smartphone. The state's official KCNA news agency has put out a video showing leader Kim Jong-Un ("The Young 'Un") touring the factory and inspecting the phone.
Brand name: Arirang. It's said to come from a famous North Korean folk song.
Are they sure it's not from a famous British TV series, Eastenders?
"Any messages, luv?"
SHE: "There's trouble with the car. It's got water in the carburettor."
He: "Water in the carburettor? That's ridiculous."
She: "I'm telling you."
He: "You don't even know what a carburettor is. I'll check. Where's the car?"
She: "In the pool."
There is no reciprocity. Men love women, women love children, children love hamsters.