A tale from America is sending shivers down the spines of British orchestra members, and, indeed, others across the world. The US Army's concert band - a favourite of President Clinton - has had its stock of musical instruments stolen. The instruments - worth dollars 500,000 - were taken from a lorry transporting them to San Antonio, Texas, for a concert. Nothing so scandalous has happened in the world of international music since the Berlin Philharmonic flew to London in 1987 to perform Herbert von Karajan's last concert, only to discover that, because of a customs strike, their dinner jackets were left behind. The British worry is that were a smilar theft to occur here, there would be no way of tracing the stolen instruments. The Americans, fortunately, stamp 'Property of the US Army' on theirs, making it difficult to sell them abroad. 'However,' explains a spokesman for the Philharmonic, 'unlike in America, each orchestra member here owns his or her own instrument. Therefore though it is unnamed, it is individually insured.' Phew. . .

As if rail strikes aren't enough of a problem, the sunny weather is causing a major technical hitch in Hot Air's modernist production of Alice in Wonderland, currently showing at Greenwich Observatory. The sun's rays are reflecting off the backdrop - a projection screen, supposed 'to construct a dream'. The only dream the audience experiences at the moment is a squinting nightmare. 'We're very frustrated,' admits producer Mick Gordon,'we got bad advice from the lighting people.' Unable to start the performance later than 7pm because the park has to close at 9pm, he is, therefore, greatly looking forward to the production's relocation to Highbury Fields in two weeks.

Time to clarify the whispers circulating recently that Carol Thatcher has been telling friends that after 17 years in power, it is time that this Goverment was thrown out. Sadly, Miss Thatcher's reasoning does not so much stem from a fervent admiration of Tony Blair so much as - to quote - 'I couldn't give a damn one way or the other.'

Exemplifying the modern scorn for ceremony is Roger Kirk, president of the teachers' union NASUWT, who carries his gold chain of office, pictured, forged in 1920 and revered by many, in a grey smelly hiking sock.

'I used to use it for school field trips,' he explains. 'It's very convenient.' Maybe for preventing scratches but, arguably, not so welcome on public occasions. Kirk, however, defends the garment to the hilt. He assures me he is now an expert on choosing the best moment to slip it discreetly from his briefcase and don its contents on to his shoulders 'without anybody noticing.

In a case of art almost imitating life Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is playing a cameo role in the new illustrated version of his book - as a failed author turned cop. He and agent Ed Victor may be seen to the fore of this shot below, portraying their fictitious characters which the accompanying text describes as 'a couple of intelligent caring cops that you'd probably quite like if you met socially'.

To save pennies, other Weidenfeld employees have been roped in for lesser roles. Beady eyes will notice the book's editor Richard Atkinson, 26, in a latex inter-galactic pig outfit in the background - looking, for some unimaginable reason, rather gloomy.