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  Ray Smith confesses
THERE'S SERVICE FOR YOU

Do you get asked for advice about computers?
I must confess that I do, frequently. It must be the beard. I'd better shave it off, it's getting to be more trouble than it's worth.
This doe-eyed brunette asked me about the Internet last week, when I was at the Drama Group. Could I recommend a reasonable service provider? Only she didn't put it like that, something about one of those thingies that get you on it - Oh, you know.
I gathered that she had in mind one of the free service providers to get on the Net.
"What about Tesco?", I said.
She sniffed elegantly. "No, I'm more of a Sainsbury's type person. I couldn't.....".
"Stoop", I think she was implying.
"There's Freeserve, FreeUK and Free4all", I said, "they're reasonable."
"Oh no", she said,"they all sound so...so...".
"Cheap?", I said. I was getting fed up with having to finish her sentences.
"Well, yes", she admitted, "they don't sound the sort of service I was thinking of".
"How about Hotlinks?", I ventured.
"No, oh dear no," she said, "That seems so...so...". She took a deep breath.
"Overheated?" I murmured. I was getting a trifle overheated myself.
"Well yes".
"There's always Virgin", I said tentatively.
"Virgin?", she said, "that's hardly me!". And she unwound and gave me one of those high octane smiles, the sort that makes your toes curl.
Wow! I thought - and Wow! Again.
I was beginning to warm to the idea and the names of different ISPs started whizzing around inside my head at a rate of knots. G-Wizz, Games- online, Strayduck, Yahoo all entered my head when someone called her onstage to take part in the run through.
Pity. I think she might have contemplated Madasafish. Somehow it seemed to have the right connotations for her.


THE SOUND OF LOCAL THUNDER?

I've got a bit of a loud sneeze.
I admit it!
When I sneeze, the foundations shake, the roof tiles lift and ambulance crews get a touch of the shudders thinking the Corporation dustcart has broken the sound barrier.
"Has your husband got a cold?", the windswept blonde from three doors away asked my wife.
"I'm surprised you didn't know", says her outdoors, "there's been a cloud of Friars Balsam vapour hanging over the Road this past week."
"Oh! Is that what it is?", says the w/s blonde, 'I put it down as something to do with the freak weather we've been having lately."
"He's in there now", continued her outdoors, "He's got a towel over his head inhaling a Menthol and Eucalyptus vapour out of a plastic bucket. All my pudding basins have gone to the wall. They kind of fly when he sneezes, that's why he's using a plastic bucket. It's got more bounce!"
The w/s blonde, who's got a certain amount of bounce herself, developed a glazed look and departed indoors as if she was sleep walking.
Me? I'm not saying another word.
Last night some of the neighbours fence panels blew down. He gave me a jaundiced look when I poked my head out of the back door. I know he blames me.
I'm taking to my bed and pulling the duvet over my head until it all blows over.
No! Not the fence, you fool!
Hold on to your hat, I can feel another sneeze brewing.
Kerplonk!
(Kerplonk? That's not the sound of a sneeze. ED)
No! That's the sound of another picture falling off the wall!


on-cue