It is amusing to see that Prince William's forthcoming arrival at Eton, exams permitting, has been described as an expression of his parents' desire that he go to "his local school", for all the world as if he were about to join Gas Street Secondary Modern.

None the less, as things go, the young prince's arrival at Eton will represent something of an egalitarian measure. It is, after all, a "public school", even if only in that peculiarly English use of the word: previous generations of royalty have been educated at home or in paramilitary fortresses in the wilds of Scotland where there was absolutely no chance of them accidentally mingling with their subjects. Eton, which stands in an actual town, is practically an inner-city comprehensive in comparison. Indeed, Windsor has even been found to have its own drug problem, although it seems to be largely confined to the barracks attached to the castle.

In any case, Wills is unlikely to stand out too much in a school community that currently includes 29 Hons, three Lords, an Earl, a Marquis, a German baron and a pair of viscounts. And those few social distinctions which remain will simply disappear under the school uniform, just as they used to at Gas Street Secondary Modern before the day of the designer training-shoe. That's always been the theory, anyway.

Unfortunately, certain marks of distinction seem inevitable. One thing that will most likely mark him out from his fellow "new tits", as new pupils are known, is the "electronic tag" that he will apparently be made to wear at all times. This science-fiction device will allow his team of detectives, one of whom will presumably occupy the room next door, to track him on radar as he wanders around the dangerously insecure school in the company of classmates, curious tourists and hordes of tabloid reporters hoping for something as exciting as the legendary "Cherry Brandy incident" that his father might be able to tell him about.

Sadly, Eton is not what it was. Traditionalists will be dismayed to see that fagging and beating have been abolished, sub-zero open-air swimming has been replaced by splashing around in a heated indoor pool. Once upon a time, the young dears would spend all their time cleaning shoes and making toast, before themselves being lightly grilled upon the nearest radiator. These days they learn the violin, play with computers and practise Alexander Technique. Even that rich vein of freelance cruelty once synonymous with a public school education is now frowned upon.

In any case, who is going to be brave enough to bully the little prince when his own personal security guard is always within radar distance? At the very least it would mean removing the tag first. The Weasel predicts a thriving undercover business in the supply of wirecutters.


We know that summer is with us when we hear the first happy tales of airport chaos.

Not at our end yet, I'm happy to report. Despite the conversion of Britain's air terminals into a series of out of town shopping malls with runways, they seem, so far, to be processing people efficiently enough. No, the problems are, as usual, at the other end.

Why is it that Spanish airports are always under construction? Indeed, why is that Spain is always under construction? An associate was passing through Alicante last weekend and reports that the combination of coachloads of lobster- pink Britons, a morass of uncompleted building work and an electronic signing system that resolutely refused to work provided the usual perfect ending for the holiday experience.

The high point came when, after battling through a series of chicken- wire compounds to get to the plane, passengers had to wait there for 45 minutes hoping that some 16 stragglers would turn up.

Sadly, simply leaving them there is no longer an option. Passengers have learned that once their baggage has been checked in, the plane won't go without them, because unaccompanied bags are forbidden for security reasons. This gives them unlimited time to explore the facilities, even when they are as dismal as they are at Alicante, or simply to get lost.

In the end, as was fitting, the captain took decisive action. Leaving the driving seat, he made his way back to the terminal, carrying a megaphone. There he bellowed for his lost charges to present themselves. Then he led them back, shamefaced, to the plane, which he coolly flew home.

The trend in advertising these days is towards the global campaign. I note that the Andrex puppy is to be adapted for use around the world, despite some bafflement outside the UK, where consumers who have been shown the commercials can't grasp the connection between a fluffy young dog and a length of toilet paper.

Well, you can see their point. Here at home, we are so used to a tradition of elliptical, allusive commercials that we resent anything too obvious. Our advertising is choc-a-bloc with imagery, much of it surreal and even horrific. Have you seen the weird concoction for the Eurostar train? And which bow-tied genius decided it would be a good idea to sell insurance by showing scalding water apparently falling on to small children, fire ripping through houses and life-like dolls bobbing about in buckets of dirty water?

It is safe to say that this kind of advertising wouldn't travel. While many of the world's commercials are exactly the same as ours, albeit with differently pigmented people knocking back the diet cola or munching on the breakfast cereal, a strong proportion remains defiantly literal-minded. Sitting in a bar on the Costa Blanca recently, I was amazed to see two pairs of naked breasts, one set decidedly more substantial than the other, pop up in the middle of the local television news. They were adver-tising cosmetic (or, as it is called over there, "aesthetic") surgery.

Luckily, the local clinics don't seem to have extended their service into penile extension, the latest growth area for their UK equivalents. That would be more than enough to make you choke on your chorizo.


How delightful to see that among the dist-inguished lawyers, politicians, businessmen and educationalists who make up the Nolan committee sits a former editor of the Dandy. Obviously, Lord Thomson of Monifieth has done a few other things, notably being a Labour minister, chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority, the Independent Broadcasting Authority and an EEC commissioner, but who can doubt that he learned the fine art of moral discrimination while presiding over the world of Desperate Dan, Corky the Cat and Beryl the Peril?

The parallel is not exact, of course. No one ever saw Desperate Dan asking questions for money. Indeed, the most difficult moral question that Dan ever has to face is whether to hit the villains with a railway sleeper or drop the whole train on them, while for Beryl it's more a matter of whether to place the bucket of water on top of the door or just behind it.

None the less, questions of behaviour still loom large. When Dan provides faithful service, he is usually rewarded with a meat pie con- taining a whole cow, rather than with a juicy directorship in a recently privatised company. Perhaps something similar can be developed for the House of Commons: just so long as we all know who supplied the cow, when, and on what terms.


I was amused to read that Michael Portillo, not content with having consistently the most interesting hair in Parliament, has now had something called a "cuticle wax" at the Figaro Beauty Clinic, Enfield, thanks to the kind min-istrations of someone called Maria Eliades, possibly a compatriot. Perhaps he hopes it will assist in his long-term campaign to be the next Tory Prime Minister (it will need to be a long- term campaign).

This doesn't seem an entirely healthy development. Am I alone in expecting that a British PM, at least of the male persuasion, ought not to know what a "cuticle wax" is, let alone be putting himself forward for one?

This may, however, be simple ignorance on my part. Even as we speak, Martin Gilbert is probably putting the finishing touches to Churchill: The Salon Years.


With all the bad vibes coming out of Cordiant, the cringemakingly named former Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency, now dubbed "Discordiant" by wags, it's a surprise to see that they find time to do any advertising at all. But they do, and what advertising it is.

If I can crave a moment of your time, I'd like to introduce you to the new slogan devised by the agency to assist in the recovery of one of London's more dismal inner-city areas. Are you ready? This is it: "Yes. Deptford".

Well, I did say a moment. A billboard bearing precisely that slogan now stands in the heart of the once-proud borough, celebrated as the last resting-place of Christopher Marlowe rather than for anything more recent.

It is certainly to the point. And it is no hype, either. You can imagine, if it had been Rio de Janeiro, or Monte Carlo or Berlin, a certain typographical licence might have crept in. "Yes! Monte Carlo!", for instance. But none of those fripperies for Deptford. "Yes. Deptford" it is. But if Deptford is the answer, what, pray, is the question? The Weasel