Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3587 Set by Leonora Casement

We asked for adverts for up-to-date children's toys.

Report by Ms de Meaner

Ye gods, but you're a bloodthirsty, not to say tasteless, lot. How about a "Dig for the Disappeared game" with "the lifelike figures and voice of General Milosevic" providing clues? Or the "Junior Ethnic Cleansing Kit" complete with "a model Kosovan village"? I shall name no names, but you know who you are. Hon menshes to Anne Du Croz for her range of Barbie and Ken sets, including "Animal Liberationist Barbie (specify pink or black balaclava) and House of Commons Researcher Barbie (long hair and legs, perfect teeth, three GCSEs and scarlet and black lace underwear)"; Will Bellenger for his Carnivosaur with Living TeethTM (which opens the present for you); Watson Weeks for his Junior Surgeon's Vasectomy Package; and A Cannon for the Boy's Home Mint - "Learn to use Daddy's colour photocopier to print natural-looking five-pound notes of your own. See how clever you can be in buying things with your own money. Don't tell them. Let them guess." And a special mention goes to Chas F Garvey for his delicious "flanged runners". £15 to the winners; the bottle of champers goes to Nick MacKinnon.

Oh, and thank you, Ian Birchall, for your note referring to my "courteous letter" to you. It's not every day that epithet is applied to me.

Kids! Everyone at school got a special learning difficulty except you? Feeling left out when the LEA psychologist calls? You need DyslexoTM lenses! Wearing DyslexoTM contact lenses makes letters swim before your eyes: b and d are interchanged, while p looks like q. You'll read "quibble" as "puddle", just like the real dyslexic children. Just think! You take the dyslexia tests with your DyslexoTM lenses in and the educational psychologists will give you 25 per cent more time in your exams. Then, when standard assessment tasks come round, you take the DyslexoTM lenses out! But that's not all. DystypeTM version 3.1 is a Windows-compatible word processor: you type in your work and DystypeTM inserts all the classic dyslexic errors and prints it out in a user-customised DysfontTM. It looks like your handwriting but has some of the letters backwards! Send now for the DyslexoTM lenses and DystypeTM 3.1, and we'll give you a free DyscalculatorTM with the "5" and "2" and "+" and "x" buttons switched. You type "52 x 12" and the DyscalculatorTM makes it "40"! Use all three products together to earn peaceful one-to-one teaching undisturbed by the Attention Deficit children for the rest of your schooldays!

Nick MacKinnon

Worried how to keep your children amused during the long winter evenings? Buy them the most realistic game yet: Junior NHS Waiting List. This game is recreational, educational, vocational and lasts a long time.

With this kit your children can:

- Practise drama skills as they sob, writhe and scream in agony. Good preparation for the school play (one day your kids could be on Casualty).

- Develop imagination by writing repeated excuses for delay (valuable career training: economists see apologising for defective public services as a major employment growth area).

- Enhance mathematical skills with our special calculator, the ByersometerTM, which shows lists getting shorter even as they grow (if they handle this arithmetic, they'll sail through SATs).

Delivery is in two stages:

- Packet one (uncomfortable chair, 500 cancellation notices and peppermint-flavoured painkillers) guaranteed within seven days.

- Packet two (bandages, surgical instruments, anaesthetic) in the next three years (we hope).

If your kids are too young to play doctors and nurses - this will keep them waiting.

Everyone ordering in the next 60 days will receive a free Dobbo doll. Youngsters can't help laughing at his unhygienic beard, clownish face and tape-loop that repeats: "Things are getting better."

Ian Birchall

Want to give your daughter a real treat? A toy that's more than a toy? A state-of-the-art role model, not just a cuddly plaything?

Forget those lifeless bimbo dolls with their silly clothes and beauty aids. They're yesterday's news.

Say hello to Hillary. Here's a doll that knows how to be more than just feminine. She's smart, she's tough, she has a 32-megabyte brain and she can beat the crap out of any other doll, GI Joe included.

Pricey? Sure - but she's worth it. Her high-powered circuitry keeps her going for hours.

She doesn't bake cookies but she can quote Kate Millett, give clear, firm orders to servants, pitch a mean fast ball and - thanks to secret laser technology - destroy household pests, including men.

Hillary is what every girl will want in the 21st century, a high-concept post-feminist icon who looks great and stands no nonsense.

Hillary - the little friend your daughter always dreamed of, available at last from your local toystore. If you disappoint her, she may never forgive you. Don't say you haven't been warned.

G M Davis

No 3590 Set by John Crick

Jonathan Aitken has had no shortage of friends and relatives to vouch for his good qualities, and the worst criminals have had their defenders and apologists. We'd like you to try your hand at plausible-sounding character or job references for real-life (anyone sending in Milosevic will be disqualified immediately - and, in the interests of taste, let's enlarge that ban to Hitler, Pol Pot and Saddam) or fictional bad 'uns. Max 200 words by 5 August.

E-mail: comp@ newstatesman.co.uk

This article first appeared in the 26 July 1999 issue of the New Statesman, I took tea with Pinochet