Cries & whispers

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LAST SUNDAY I drew attention to the revamp that is under way at the Barbican Centre, and the fact that pounds 150,000 of public money had been spent on a pointilliste - some might say pointless - mural, which has added countless dabs of insipid colour to the familiar concrete of the foyer. Now the plot has thickened. A letter lands on my desk, signed by a Monsieur Dreyfus, pointing out that there's a connection between the artist who made the mural, Polly Hope, and the architect responsible for commissioning it, Professor Theo Crosby, a partner in Pentagram Design. They are married to each other.

'It was this,' the letter continues, 'which almost prevented the Corporation of London from approving the scheme - it was rejected the first time it came up for approval, and had to be re-submitted in a revised form. Such a rejection is almost unprecedented.'

I put these points to the Barbican, but when we went to press, they had not got back to me.

Now there is no law that says that a man should not commission something from his wife. And if the Corporation of London (eventually) approved the assignment, then presumably any doubt about its probity was allayed. It may well be that Polly Hope was the best person for the job. It may be that Crosby took the same view as Jim Callaghan, the prime minister who appointed his son-in-law, Peter Jay, as Ambassador to Washington: he claimed to have taken more persuading than he would have normally, because of the delicacy of the situation. But the connection does raise the stakes. It means that if the product of the collaboration doesn't look good, the arrangement doesn't either. And in this case, the product doesn't look good at all.

ENTRIES continue to flow in for our late- summer series, the Arts Clerihew. One takes up a challenge I had set myself - writing a clerihew about Imogen Stubbs, the actress whose photograph currently looms over the Aldwych on a billboard much as Marky Mark and his Y-fronts used to do in Times Square. The tricky bit is finding a rhyme with Stubbs. My correspondent goes for vapour rubs, but this takes him swiftly down a road that leads to soft porn. Keep it clean, please, Mr King. My own effort was this:

Imogen Stubbs

Seldom blubs

Which is lucky

As she's playing Joan of Arc, who was

famous for being plucky

But this has one flaw even its author can spot: there is no evidence for its main contention. For all I know, Imogen Stubbs may burst into tears several times a day. If some kind reader could come forward to verify it, it might pass muster.

Meanwhile, this week's pounds 5 winner has to be Louis Hellman of Acton, who sent in no fewer than 15 clerihews. The most topical was this:

Helen Chadwick

Is she taking the mick?

Being a thoroughly modern Ms

It's more like she's taking the ps

But the one I liked best was:


What a man

Framed a chart

Called it art

which says it all in 12 syllables. Louis, I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

A TASTER arrives from a forthcoming book called The Official Slacker Handbook. Just flicking through it leaves me bored and listless.