Competition. Win a bottle of champagne

No 3555 Set by Gordon Gwilliams

You were asked for prose that included terms found in the New Oxford Dictionary of English: lunch box, black information, Barnum effect, car bra, eye candy, downshift, glory hole, mockney, mouse potato, pan-pan and zero tolerance. You didn't have to stick to the definitions contained in the dictionary.

Report by Ms de Meaner

And most of you certainly didn't! I was sorry for John Taylor for not getting into the winner's box, but it was "eye candy" not "eye catching", I'm afraid, John me old luv. Hon menshes to D A Prince, El Basilio and David Barton. £15 to winners; the bottle goes to Anne Du Croz.

Dad's an Old Labour war-horse:

No mouse potato, Stan.

He says it's tripe, New Labour hype;

Gives it the old pan-pan.

He says it's all eye-candy;

Zero tolerance gives the spin;

He works like a mole in his glory hole

To get Old lads back in.

He writes black information

To downshift his New MP.

There's a red car bra on his Rover car:

He's a socialist, you see.

They've tried hard to convert him

With Barnum effect refined;

But mockney ploys from lunch box boys

Won't make him change his mind.

Anne Du Croz

With Christmas approaching, I offer suggestions for some unusual presents. For the ex-girlfriend, a Vivienne Westwood car bra, the motifs being Mercedes or Ka, depending on her measurements and on what value she used to put on her glory hole. For your sweet god-daughter - the one in the verminous squat who is growing up to be a real mouthful of eye candy - a mouse potato (the embroidered trap being lethal but barely visible). For your hen-pecked boss, whose lady has zero tolerance for any after-work activities, a Cynthia Payne lunch box (these come in daily, weekly or monthly sizes). Your psychiatrist, the one with the cringe-making mockney slang ("I'm yer game of whist; gimme a taste of yer clotted creams" etc), deserves an encyclopaedia of black information, specially compiled for ethnically challenged professionals, particularly those with a craving for pan-pan, that double-strength betel nut chewing-gum. And a Barnum effect checked coat might suit the brother-in-law, whose paunch has an interesting tendency to downshift.

Alanna Blake

Useful and amusing Xmas novelties by mail order. Hurry while stocks last! We still have in stock the Mockney, a pastiche L S Lowry painting with "naughty" figures; the pan-pan, a pan for conveniently holding all your kitchen pans; the Teletubbies' school lunch box that doubles as a laptop; "zero tolerance" frost-proof nose muffs for outdoor types, available in a range of colours; the tiny, genetically engineered mouse potato from Sweden, best in salads. Not to mention the car bra that lights up invitingly when you park in lover's lane, where eye candy, the edible mascara, will help sweeten the moment. You can frustrate your office rivals with the Glory Hole, an executive toy based on anti-matter; buy a customised black information pack (a private eye's report, with photos, will tell you what your neighbours have been up to!); play Downshift, a kind of fin-de-siecle strip-Monopoly for mature swingers; or experience the Barnum effect ("the greatest show on earth") by buying the latest Gameboy mega-hit, Kill the Millennium Dome!

G M Davies

A glory hole my den has decrepitly become since my recent downshift - actually I was sacked - but now the computer commands my whole attention. I've been transformed into a veritable mouse potato and fallen victim to the Barnum effect that leaves me believing unquestionably everything it churns out, while totally ignoring the possibility that my input on occasion may be flawed.

No eye candy, even be it of Monroe-like nubility, peripherally disturbs my obsessive concentration. On the odd occasion I succeed in tearing myself away, I repair to the hostelry close by for refreshment, but rarely find peace since the mockney affectation of Broadbent will probably assail my ears. His contrived aspirate-dispensing spiel lately boasts of little else but the ability of his car bra to absorb probing microwaves emanating from the fuzz. This may be illegal, but I keep quiet, otherwise in his capacity as under-manager at the NatWest branch I use, he might exact revenge by adding black information to my file. Instead, I fantasise and imagine I hear his cries of anguish being afforded but pan-pan status after I've applied zero tolerance by booting him in the lunch box.

Chas F Garvey

No 3558 Set by John Digby

Rumpole's Rag Week, The Melee at the Vicarage (Miss Marple) or A Taste for Macaroni (Adam Dalgleish), and so on. Could we have excepts from the young lives of a famous character of your choice that fully exposes the child-leading-to-the-adult, but perhaps in an interesting and not-too-linear way, eg, Jane Marple doesn't solve a murder that has mystified the Met. Max 200 words by 16 December.

E-mail: comp@

This article first appeared in the 04 December 1998 issue of the New Statesman, Just get out and have fun!