Wanted: EREX

"So what are you interested in?"

"EREX"

"We'll ring you back. What's your name?" she added, starting to speak slowly as if she realized that my blood wasn't flowing as it should. If she could get me a plaster quick, disaster could be averted.

As the clever brand name may have suggested, EREX is for the sexually disappointed, a cure for impotence, which comes in the shape of a plaster that you can stick on any part of your body. It then promises to increase your potency for three days, beyond "all your expectations."

To finally seal the deal, the advert underneath the television schedule in Zhizn newspaper adds that it is "compatible with drinking."

What a magical combination -- a cure for impotence that lets you keep on drinking. It is as unlikely a combination as the baseball bats that used to be sold next to the Sovietsky champagne at the Kopeika shop opposite The Moscow Times.

EREX is not a Russian product, and despite the tiny letters in the ad that say it isn't a drug, it seems to come with a long list of possible side effects if you search for it in English on the web.

The EREX lady phoned me back while I was sitting in a cafe and told me that the price was 24,000 rubles ($680) for a pack of 10 plasters. When I asked for a discount, she sweetly suggested that she could call back the next day, "since I can hear you're at a party and it's embarrassing for you to talk about your problem."

Two ads to the left, just by the one for a psoriasis cure, Valentin from Samara has written in to ask why his friend is in rapture about Man Always. It's not the new five blade Gillette razor but a natural product that helps you in seven different ways in bed. Think of that Kanye West song, and then try to think of four other ways you need help in bed.

Further down, ads offer cures for back pain and eye problems and a hearing aid for 1,597 rubles before the readers' thoughts are brought back to sex.

At the bottom is an ad for Tonkat Ali Plus, which is also known as Malaysian Ginseng. "It's Useful," it says in capitals in a final plea, "if you have prostate problems."

It seems that the ideal clients for the advertisers are, cynically enough, the vast millions of aged TV watchers, the slightly deaf pensioner with back pain, although not for the reasons he'd like, and a sexual urge that has yet to dim.

All these adverts that offer to get the blood going just remind me of a story I once wrote about a Russian magazine for the sexually active pensioner, or the pensioner who wanted to be sexually active, and what a shame it was that its saner, considerate and more medically responsible advice never had the circulation, if you pardon the pun, of Zhizn.