It has made the Americans go berserk; endless articles have

appeared about it in this week's New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post; dinner party conversation is of nothing else and even New York waiters are debating it amongst themselves. No - I am not talking about some new public appearance of Elizabeth Hurley in the nude - but of the latest cover of The Economist; it contains, in its American and Far Eastern editions, the above picture of two camels mating below the headline 'The trouble with mergers'.

The magazine's editor, Bill Emmott, responsible for the creation, thought long and hard about which animals would best demonstrate his point. 'We wanted to illustrate that big companies getting together was generally a bad thing,' he says. 'We looked at pictures of elephants, lions, rhinos and even hyenas getting together, but camels seemed to be the most appropriate. The image speaks for itself.'

Inevitably he has been inundated with phone calls from the outraged animal rights communities who are furious that the camels should be exploited, as they see it, in such a way. But Mr Emmott appears to be riding the storm with ease - which is more, it seems, than the poor camels look able to.

No sooner did Environment Secretary John Gummer give the go-ahead yesterday for the construction of an eruv - the formal boundary allowing orthodox Jews to undertake certain daily activities whilst observing religious days - than he ran into a problem. The relevant lobbyists he needed to break the news to were unobtainable - celebrating the Jewish holiday of Succoth.

To the brand new Capital Club in Abchurch Lane, EC4, for a merry pre-launch lunch. It appears, however, I was mistaken in thinking the club's problems ended with BT's refusal to connect the telephones until 10 October. The 'antique' furniture which originally arrived proved too 'antique' - it was damaged. 'We had to replace it,' Charles Cunninhgam, a spokesman for the club's holding company ICC, told me. 'The new stuff arrived this morning; so we had two vans outside - one bringing in the new and one taking out the old - only things went wrong. The removal men removed the new stuff and the old stuff was left behind.'

My colleagues on the Education Desk are scratching their heads. A little while ago the Government set up a new independent Funding Agency for Schools in York, which they said was not to be affected or influenced in any way by what goes on in the Department for Education. Yet when a colleague rang the FAS and asked for the press office she was put through not to their press officer but to the education department's press office . . . in London. It turns out, quite miraculously, the two bodies actually share the same switchboard.

Something bizarre happened at Kiss FM's London studio earlier this week. Ian Smith, the self-confessed 'peculiar-looking' leader of a tatooed troupe of actors formerly constituting the controversial Circus Archaos, and now appearing in a production of The Feast at Deptford's Albany Theatre, turned up (looking, he says, as below) to be interviewed.

'Ah yes,' he was greeted. Before he could speak further, a suited individual ushered him into the lift and then the boardroom. 'How are you?' enquired the suit. 'Knackered,' replied Smith 'It's all this cooking I have to do' (for production). The suit smiled, got out a pile of files and a calculator and told him to start the meeting. 'It's Piccadilly I want to hear about,' he added. Smith thought quickly: 'You mean a potential buy out by Picadilly

Radio?' 'Yup,' came from the suit. 'Excuse me,' says Smith, 'I think you've got the wrong Ian Smith . . . 'As he spoke the right one entered the lobby.

(Photograph omitted)