Coales' Notes: Stand up and be counted

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The Independent Culture
TUESDAY: I went down to the National Campaign for the Arts' 'Save the Arts' rally at the Victoria Palace Theatre. Rory had strongly advised me to go in disguise, because 'you realise, the whole place is going to be swarming with Special Branch photographers'. He added that he had it 'on very good authority' that at least half of the NCA executive were Special Branch stooges - up to and including Melvyn Bragg himself. I said I found that quite hard to believe. He said: 'We-ell. But you notice the way their initiatives always have a strangely off-putting effect. Mere coincidence?'

Anyway, I declined his offer of a false nose - wisely, because I happened to run into Di.

I remarked to her that I'd had it pretty well up to here with our old colleague. She said: 'Oh sure, everyone does.' She told me the PVC Dance Company wasn't working out so wonderfully either, and she was planning to 'branch out' - which could be worth thinking about. I asked what she meant. She replied: 'Well, you're always so good with artists.' I said I could be, if I had a free hand. She went on: 'But of course. And then I'm so good with the clients.'

I might have pursued this, but shortly afterwards I got the keen impression that we were going to be made to chant - something which I physically cannot do - so had to leave.

I returned to the office, to find Rory in consultation with a nun. 'Hey, Gordon - meet the new Sister Wendy.' He introduced me to Sister Frida Dugdale, who pressed my hand warmly. He said: 'Now watch this. Go on, do it for Gordon.' He handed me some fine art post cards, and asked me to pick one. I selected a perfectly innocuous Howard Hodgkin.

She took one look at it, and visibly shuddered. 'Oh my goodness. Oh dear me, what a business. Oh heavens. We simply want to cry out, don't we? Help] Help, help, help] We are in the presence of pure evil. We feel the artist has declared himself to be the personal enemy of God and His Love. And we may be sure that a special furnace is being stoked in the deepest pit of hell.' She turned to Rory, who gave her a thumbs up. I agreed it was certainly different.

She smiled: 'Well, one never likes to criticise a sister, but I do feel that Wendy's approach tends to be a little too celebratory.' Rory: 'Six-part TV series, tie-in book and vid - a personal journey through 20th century culture - Sister Frida's Inferno.' The nun: 'Now, are we going to the restaurant?'

As they were leaving, Rory called back: 'Incidentally, you know that comedian who used to be in the National Front? I think I've found one that's still a member. Post-alternative]'

As to what Di said, I'm beginning to think it could very well be worth thinking about.

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