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Renaissance man plays field

Howard Wilkinson (below), the taciturn manager of Leeds United, is being increasingly touted as the next manager of England. And I gather he is adding to his credentials for high office by showing himself to be a renaissance man. Terry Venables may have penned the odd (very odd, say those who have read them) thriller; but Wilkinson can beat that. He has agreed to become president of the London Symphony Orchestra football team.

Rod Franks, principal trumpeter of the orchestra and a junior footballer with Leeds in 1970, bumped into Wilkinson at the Elland Road stadium and popped the question.

An unusually happy Wilkinson, even ventures a joke in today's issue of Classic FM magazine: "Footballers and musicians are in the same business," he says. "We both do stressful jobs in front of critical audiences. The only difference is that their crowds are noisier."

My own hunch is that Wilkinson needs the advice of the LSO rather than the other way round. London's "super orchestra" has gained a reputation for some brilliant undercover work in the transfer market, luring top players from rival ensembles. The LSO, I suspect, would never have let a Cantona slip through its clutches.

Indecent proposal

The Ramblers' Association, under the presidency of Janet Street-Porter, has done sterling work in drafting the Access to the Countryside Bill, a first step to legislating for freedom to roam over uncultivated countryside subject to common-sense restrictions.

Imagine the association's discomfort when the clause forbidding indecent activity on public land was endowed with the following misprint by the House of Commons scribes. The Bill, according to schedule one, prohibits "indecent conduct" despite "Pubic Access".

Get your fax right

I am intrigued by the latest apocalyptic predictions of Sister Marie Gabriel as to when the world is going to end. On Friday the persistent harbinger of all things gloomy issued a two-page emergency press release, complete with an end-of-the-world fax number, which stated that in order to avoid imminent destruction at the hands of a comet we should, among other things, ban showings of the film Showgirls (fair enough) and give funds to print her warning (not so fair enough).

The real problem with Sister Marie Gabriel's release, however, is not so much the doom-and-gloom aspect but the teeny matter of when all this is meant to happen.

On page one she says it's 15 March; on page two the 16th. Make up your mind please. We need to plan.

Hard disk for the soul

Eagle Eye's weekend Web-watching on the Internet finds that one curious group, known as the Transhumanists, want us to live the Internet - literally - in mind, body and spirit.

On the Transhuman page, they propose that we all become Infomorphs, which involves uploading one's consciousness into a computer. The problem is what hardware and software to use? Windows 95 is not suitable, and memory is a problem - it would require billions of gigabytes to store the human brain. Come to that, what would happen if you crashed or got a virus? It raises the spectre of a new purgatory, an eternity spent backing yourself up on to floppy disks.

Only the hairy may inherit the office

Gore Vidal, the American writer and veteran president watcher, makes a prescient prediction about the changing nature of the office in Channel 4's Without Walls, to be broadcast in April.

"The winner will always be the one with the brightest smile and the most hair," says Vidal. "It's doubtful there will ever be a swimsuit category, but there will never be a bald-headed president again." A maxim that has no great intellectual logic. Nevertheless, George Bush (above) may prove to be the last thinning president. And I suspect it holds true for future British prime ministers, too.

Eagle Eye

Having a wild time in the wilderness?

One would have thought that to receive public disapprobation from the Bishop of Oxford was enough aggravation for one day, but worse was in store for the feisty Rev Peter Owen-Jones (above) after he returned to his Ely parish from the muddy fields of Newbury last week. (You may remember that he incurred the wrath of the Oxford diocese because he joined the anti-bypass protestors and staged a prayer meeting to protect the countryside.)

The rebel rev tipped up at his local dry-cleaners to get the cassock he had donned for the Newbury fields meeting cleaned. Horror flashed across the shopkeeper's face as she took in the mud, the debris, the leaves and the slush adorning his holy garment.

"How did this happen?" she ventured eventually.

"I was in the wilderness, shall we say," quipped Owen-Jones, a little nervously.


The woman looked at him crossly in front of the other customers, then, when the shop had cleared, relaxed.

"Frankly, vicar," she whispered: "I'm with you all the way."