Diary

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It would appear, from her wedding list, at least, that Lady Sarah Chatto is more informed about the workings of the book world than her mother, Princess Margaret. Indeed, while Lady Sarah displays a penchant for modernity, Princess Margaret, in true old-fashioned spirit, still thinks you can exchange books at one bookseller, regardless of where they were bought. Indeed, after every Christmas, she is, according to eyewitnesses, to be found inside Hatchards in Piccadilly, with a boxful of books which she is eager to exchange - unsurprisingly, when you consider that they have been known to include texts as fascinating as The Royal Yearbook.

I'm told that the bookshop - from which the Queen Mother removed her royal warrant this year - was at first bemused by the princess's naivety when she presented staff with books from other stores. It has, however, willingly obliged over the years, adding their value to the princess's account. What they do with them thereafter remains a mystery since, with true propriety, they refuse to discuss customers' affairs.

At least the princess - whose office admits she sometimes returns books, but is, understandably less positive on the question of Christmas gifts - has had rather better treatment than her cousin Lord Nicholas Windsor, 23-year-old son of the Duchess of Kent. He was refused a refund without a receipt recently. . .until, that is, Mama intervened.

A footnote on the subject of literary royals. The Duchess of York, whose features were recently gilded on the public's imagination as the chariot-driving Boadicea, is busy ordering books from abroad - on self-help. Texts are said to be of the 'You can Heal Your Life' and 'The Power is Within You' variety. 'Her Royal Highness has always been interested in discovering the power of the soul,' explains a spokeswoman. 'They're enlightening books.'

I AM GLAD to see that gentlemanly standards are still a priority in that most traditional of London restaurants, Simpsons-in-the-Strand. A friend arrived there for a breakfast meeting yesterday morning, only to find that his date, so to speak, had not arrived. Settling down with the proffered free newspaper - he ordered a full English breakfast with orange juice and coffee. A phone call came. The date was stuck in traffic. The man agreed to wait. Half an hour later still no sign. . .and another phone call. The date pulled out. Sighing, the man folded his newspaper and asked for the bill. 'Oh no, sir, said the maitre d' with all the sympathy of one who has shared a bad experience, 'this is on the house.'

A NOTE for all those, like myself, who could not hear what Placido Domingo was saying as he walked off the stage behind Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti at the end of Saturday night's performance in the Dodgers' stadium. Encouragingly, it was: 'See you in '98.'

EDDIE O'HARA, colourful Labour MP for Knowsley South and vice-chairman of the British-Greek Parliamentary Group, is suffering from overexposure, it seems. Some years ago, he made the mistake of singing a Greek rembetiko - a tune more commonly heard in rustic tavernas - at a dinner for various ex-pats. His performance, it turns out, was too good for his own benefit. Now he cannot go anywhere without being asked to sing. . .a habit he finds rather exhausting. Last week, he was invited on Greek Radio to talk about UK-Greek relations when, surprise surprise, the interviewer begged him for a few bars. Not long afterwards, the Commons had a tearful Greek woman on the phone saying his song was the best thing since moussaka.

'It happens every other Sunday now,' explains a friend. 'I think he finds it rather embarrassing.'

(Photographs omitted)

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