DIARY

It is the episode of Absolutely Fabulous that Saunders and Lumley never made. How to get your moisturiser when all of Paris is on strike. The latest labour dispute victim is the supermodel Naomi Campbell. The fashion retail magazine Women's Wear Daily reports in breathless and outraged tones how the world of haute couture has been transformed from fashion victims to strike victims.

First there is Ms Campbell, who sent her driver out to buy her moisturiser. The traffic turned a 20-minute trip into a half-day excursion. The plight of students without lessons, workers without transport and households without post, pales before the thought of a supermodel's skin slowly drying to the passing beat of demonstrating strikers.

But even this horror is superseded by the toll the strike is taking on society events. The sumptuously named Lady Celestria Noel, it emerges, failed to arrive on time for the Paris Debutante Ball, an event the strikers had shamefully neglected to exclude from their action.

And with the horror and distaste that one can imagine Absolutely Fabulous's Patsy expressing, some of Paris's beau monde are, for the first time in decades it seems, having to walk. WWD holds the front page for the shocking revelation that Dreda Mele, director of Giorgio Armani in France, had been "forced to walk" from apartment to office, a full 30 minutes' hike.

The language of the fashion/strike victims is suitably apocalyptic. "It's Sarajevo over here," says Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld, meaning, one assumes, that he also had to hoof it to work.

But the troubles are not without their opportunities. An enterprising strikebreaker of the Nineties could hire Zola-esque street urchins to run around the city fetching moisturisers for the rich and fragile before massaging their aching feet.

The Princess of Wales seems certain to land in next year's dictionaries of quotations for her wish to be "the queen of people's hearts". It was a memorably spontaneous phrase. Or was it? Searching through the remaindered section of his record collection, Eagle Eye is stunned to find the lyrics from a 1987 composition by an amateur songwriter, Basilio Magno, who lives in Spain and is now 72. It is entitled Sweet Lady Di and includes the phrase: "She'll remain a queen in every Briton's heart."

Magno tells me he sent a copy to Princess Diana in 1987. Her private secretary showed it to her and reported back that "she found it very cute". And, as with all the best songs, could not, it seems, get it out of her head.

Comforting to know it's not just British Rail that can't cope with cold weather. A passenger on a British Airways flight to Switzerland was delayed for several hours at Heathrow while the plane was de-iced. However, the pilot kept on saying that it was not the airline's fault, but that of the British Airports' Authority, which had only three de-icing machines at its disposal at Terminal One.

"Not our responsibility," says the man from BAA. "BA de-ice the planes; we keep the runways clear." When the machine eventually turned up, the pilot then shamefacedly had to say: "You won't believe this, but the wrong fluid has been used and the whole process has to start again." The plane took off more than three hours late.

Never underestimate the malleable properties of traditional institutions. Sotheby's, the 251-year-old auction house, has decided it's time for a change. It has hired corporate redesigners from New York to revamp its colour schemes worldwide.

"For well over a decade different colours have defined the different branches," explains a spokesman. "In London, the colour has been green; in New York, it has been grey and in Europe (other than London) it has been a greeny-grey." Now, in keeping with what the Sotheby's image gurus dub the auction house's "worldwide leadership" role, all branches are to sport a more dominant and expressive "reflex blue".

I hope the redesigners will not be submitting too large an expenses and travel claim. They came across their new colour in an Yves Klein painting, which hangs in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

My tame professor of statistics at Neasden University (formerly Dollis Hill Polytechnic) has been monitoring the regularity with which topics appear in national newspapers. He spotted an 18 per cent fall in giraffe stories in the national press this year compared with last. Delving further, he found, in a basket of British dailies, a massive 47 per cent rise in ostriches, attributable to the increased popularity of ostrich farming and the zero-rating of edible ostrich products by the VAT men.

He concludes: "The past three years' ostrich figures of 186, 227 and 348 indicate exponential growth. While beef stories (thanks to mad cows and McDonald's) have passed the 3,800 level for the first time, the rate of increase is slowing and should peak next year. Extrapolating these figures into the next millennium, we predict that ostrich will have overtaken beef by 2002, barring any unforeseen outbreak of mad ostrich disease or libel suits connected with ostrichburgers."

Christmas-card watch: searing social comment from the British Library. The card from its director, Brian Lang, this year features a number of whitish elephants. The picture is a watercolour by the 19th-century Indian artist Sita Ram, sporting possibly the longest and least memorable title in the history of art: Illuminations at the Palace of Farhat Baksh, Lucknow, on 27th October, 1814, during the state banquet given by the Nawab of Oudh, Ghazi al-Din Haidar, for the Governor-general the Marquess of Hastings. Next to the elephants are a mass of the local populace clearly wondering what is going on within the walls of the lavish building and why it is taking so long. The British Library's sense of irony is consummate.

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