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BBC's obituary for the Royal marriage

THE BBC, at least, appears to be convinced by allegations about the Prince and Princess of Wales's marriage. While the Royals are packing their bags for summer at Balmoral, employees in the BBC's News and Current Affairs department have been put on red alert for another Royal separation announcement - heralding the end of Charles and Diana's 10-year marriage. Tony Hall, head of News and Current Affairs, has a small team urgently preparing up to six special news features covering different aspects of the marriage. In appropriately hush-hush circumstances, the Six O'Clock News presenter Anna Ford has narrated the first two such 'backgrounders', one on the historical run-up to the marriage, the other on the constitutional implications in the event of a divorce (answer: there aren't any). 'They are fluid pieces,' says one BBC person, 'which will be chopped about or revoiced when the announcement comes. It's like preparing an obituary for a marriage.' The programmes are to be finished before the end of this month and the departure of most BBC people for their holidays. This is all, of course, officially denied by the Corporation, which will only say that normal updating of stock material is being done.

SIR ANDREW Lloyd Webber has, sensibly, had someone in to check his latest creation, the Olympic theme, for possible plagiarism. And while the sentiment of Sir Andrew's 'Amigos Para Siempre' is certainly hackneyed - it means 'Friends for ever' - you'll be glad to hear that the musicologist who vetted the tune is convinced it hasn't appeared anywhere else, ever.

Jack's boots STAFF collected at the Daily Mail headquarters in Kensington on Tuesday night to mark the exit in an upward direction of their editor, Sir David English. As is usual at such events, English was presented with a mock edition of his paper - the front page headlined, oddly, 'Farewell My Lovely'. And then the dutiful respects-paying was interrupted by a commotion at the door: enter, in full Nazi regalia, Jack Tinker, the paper's theatre critic, at the head of a band of Mail hacks dressed as storm- troopers. Tinker, as Goebbels, belaboured English with a riding crop while demanding the royalties on 'my diaries'. He then ordered his men to take out English and shoot him for insulting Adolf Hitler, David Irving and 'his little sidekick with the crinkly hair'. English - whose passion for having his staff dress up at parties is matched only by that of Louis XIV - said with a broad grin that this was the most tasteless thing he'd ever come across. Tinker was very pleased with his own performance. He boasted to friends: 'I've finally smacked the editor. I've been waiting 21 years for that]'

AMONG the get well messages arriving at the Rome hospital where the Pope is being treated is one from Ali Agca. Who he? A resident of an Italian jail, where he's been languishing since 1981 after taking a pot shot at said pontiff in St Peter's Square.

High scorer GARY Lineker will remain silent when he receives his honorary degree at Leicester University today. The traditional 'thank you, over the moon' is to be made on Lineker's behalf by his co-graduand, Professor Bronislaw Geremek, the Polish parliamentarian. Mr Geremek's office won't comment on precisely what, if anything, he will say about the Boy Lineker. But don't expect the tribute to be enthusiastic. When England drew with Poland last November, who do you suppose ended any Polish hopes of qualifying for the European Championships with a volley in the dying seconds of the game? One Gary Lineker (BA).

THE wit to watch among Labour's new bugs at Westminster is Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham South. His Early Day Motion on 8 July slated the DTI and 'President' Michael Heseltine for failing to defend Britain's bike industry and demanded effective action from 'the blond leading the bland'. Who can he mean? The senior clerk at the Table Office had an inkling and wrote to Simpson, pointing out: 'The phrase in your motion is disorderly in that it is tendered in a spirit of mockery.' A revised motion has appeared, blond-free and bland.


16 July 1557 Sir John Cheke writes to Sir Thomas Hoby, translator of Castiglione, warning English authors against foreign words, phrases and constructions: 'I am of the opinion that our own tongue should be written clean and pure, unmixed and unmangled with borrowings of other tongues, wherein if we take not heed by time, ever borrowing and never paying, she shall be fain to keep her house as bankrupt. For then our tongue doth naturally and praisably utter her meaning, when she borroweth no counterfeitness of other tongues to attire herself withal, but useth plainly her own, with such shift as nature, craft, experience and following of other excellent guides doth lead her unto.'