Diary

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Good behaviour, I find, often brings unexpected rewards. I had put off getting my hair cut for far too long, but the derision became unacceptable so on Saturday, feeling virtuous, I visited the house of my friend Mairin to share the services of he r travelling hairdresser. One of Mobile Mary's many attractions is that she brings magazines with her and points out particularly entrancing articles.

Saturday's talking point was an interview in Woman's Journal with Bienvenida Sokolow, aka Lady Buck, the femme fatale who brought about the early retirement of the Chief of the Defence Staff. So unusual and varied are Bienvenida's "secrets of seduction" that close scrutiny of the whole interview is recommended for anyone who intends seriously to exploit chaps. But in these days of job insecurity any of us may be forced to change career swiftly, so all my female readers might like to keep in mind the following helpful hints.

Finding the right men: fly first class; join a Fine Arts course at Sotheby's; or pretend to a "prestigious" estate agent that you are in search of an exclusive property and make sure the owner is in when you visit.

First date: if you like him, during dinner give him your garter (handmade by Chanel and previously sprayed with perfume).

Courtship: don't go to bed until the third date, but build up excitement by, for instance, wearing figure-hugging rubber dresses.

Consummation: in your bed on a carpet of frozen rose petals, on his desk, in yachts or standing against your Ferrari.

Like all too many of us these days, Ms Sokolow is a workaholic. "I have never", she tells us, "believed in taking time off with a man just to enjoy myself." Blimey! So that's where I've been going wrong.

Being easily given to nightmares, I don't care to hear about people's atavistic fears, but Bienvenida Sokolow's I can cope with. "There is nothing worse than turning up at a bistro in an evening dress," she confided to Woman's Journal. I think this terror is just about on a par with that expressed by my friend James recently, when at an Oxbridge conference he emerged from a conversation with a senior retired diplomat and told me gravely: "David and I agree that there is nothing worse than a heated bedroom." There's no accounting for distaste. Personally, I think there's nothing worse than being gnawed to death by rats.

I revere this paper's political columnist, Andrew Marr, but isn't it about time he got together with other commentators in order finally to sort out Euroterminology? Taking stock of the present confusion, it seems to me that those who hate the EU are known as Eurosceptics, though they wish to be known as Eurorealists and should be known as Europhobes; while those who love the idea of Europe are known as Europhiles although most have to pretend to be Eurosceptics. This is a bit rough on the pragmatists who should rightly be called Eurosceptics but are called Europhobes or Europhiles depending on who is attacking them: presumably, Teresa Gorman calls them Eurowimps.

May I offer a new category based on my position? I think it necessary for peace and trade that we help to forge a strong Europe, so I'm a Europhile. However, I think we must keep a tight eye on EU institutions with a view to making them efficient and containing their overweening pretensions, so I'm a Eurosceptic. But I get furious every time the EU dictates to the United Kingdom on anything from pension rights to mushy peas, so at heart I'm a Europhobe. I think I may be standing squarely with the Prime Minister in what I consider to be the perfectly respectable category of Euroditherer.

I switched on the television yesterday morning and paused briefly to hear a young man on a religious programme talking about the new US celibacy movement. "More people," he explained earnestly, "are becoming virgins than ever before." Isn't America wonderful?

I have to hand it to the Treasury. Even when I was a civil servant, I rarely had a good word for it: I disliked its narrowness and self-righteousness. It was no surprise, when I reported that an extremely able member of my staff was so catastrophically bad with people as to be unemployable anywhere except the Treasury, that they took him on like a shot. Since then I have grown to hate the institution more for its crazy yet arrogant short-termism: it would rather save sixpence today than earn a fiver tomorrow. Yet I must acknowledge its incorruptibility and consistency. Not only have its officials savagely cut their own jobs, but they're proposing to lease their building to developers and share it with the private sector.

Newcomers might like to take up the suggestion of one of my former colleagues who was once temporarily based in the Treasury. Becoming impatient with endless trekking along the 15 miles of corridors, he formally proposed the introduction of scooters. Sniffy remarks about unacceptable frivolity followed. I hope he was merely ahead of his time: such an innovation would add greatly to the efficiency and gaiety of the place, and nowadays, after all, the scooters could be financed through sponsorship.

I lamented to the tenant of my affections (TOMA) last week that I had never heard of Eric Cantona. "Why should you?" he said robustly.

"Because only a High Court judge would be ignorant about a man who gets coverage on 12 pages of the Sun. Seems to be as famous as OJ Simpson."

"Who," inquired the TOMA in all seriousness, "is OJ Simpson?"

Entries to my common cold competition are still coming in. The first arrived by telephone last Monday from Henry Kelly, whom I austerely disqualified on the grounds of friendship. However, the pun he provided is so awful as to be worth recording. Did I not, he demanded, recall the following from one of our contemporaries in the Literary and Historical Debating Society in University College Dublin? "A cold can be either positive or negative. Sometimes the eyes: sometimes the nose."

Quite.

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