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Scouting techniques

The great Girl Guiding mystery of Africa - a tale of religious fervour, political intrigue and sexual daring - has been solved. First, the President of Kenya was reported to have banned an "immoral" Guide handbook; an injured Guide Association promptly denied all knowledge of the offending manual, and an international hunt for the fiends who had dishonoured the ladies' good name was on.

Now Eagle Eye can exclusively reveal the culprits: that infamous band of scoundrels, the Boy Scouts. The Secretary General of the World Scout Movement, Dr Jacques Moreillon, has come clean: "The Curriculum Guide and Resource Manual for Family Life Education is one of ours," he tells me from Geneva, "and it has caused me an enormous amount of bother."

First to complain about the lewd and libidinous tract had been the Vatican, which approached the doctor last summer. Soon, an unlikely alliance of Catholic and Muslim fundamentalists were burning the book, along with condoms, on the streets of Nairobi. After intimate examination, the 9th Africa Scout Conference last autumn declared the tome un-Scouts-like and withdrew it.

What sordid sexual secrets could conceivably have caused such offence? Eagle Eye is intrigued. But modesty prevents good Scouts from divulging such smut. From New York to Nairobi, they blushingly decline to enlighten me.

"It simply isn't proper to say," the doctor stammers, "but the fact which I found most shocking was that no sense of scouting values appeared. Our leaders are supposed to impart values - not just, shall we say, techniques."

Mercifully, the International Planned Parenthood Federation office in Nairobi was less coy. Family Life, I learn, instructs scout masters to teach their young charges that "sexuality is like a fine necklace with many beads", and that, should they contract a sexually transmitted disease, it is best not to "try and cure it themselves."

Why should all this concern the Kenyan president? President Daniel arap Moi is the country's Chief Scout.

Gay abandon

One small mystery remaining from the David Ashby court case has been solved. I hear that a bemused black journalist asked the MP's wife, Mrs Silvana Ashby, why she had called her dog Sambo. This was not, she replied, the dog's original name. "I called her Sappho," she said, "but then I discovered Sappho was a lesbian."

On the chin

The Beard Liberation Front appears to be the first new party gearing itself up for a general election. The London-based organisation claims, with some cause, that beards have been inexorably connected with the cause of political progress and socialism, and denounces Tony Blair's clean- shaven revisionism. So here to give the BLF a happy new year is a vision of Mr Blair as a new, unshaven socialist.

Playing away

I see that John Major admits to staying away from his beloved Chelsea football club, as fellow fans have accused him of being a jinx. Supporters, even those who are not Conservative MPs, had been heard chanting "Go home, Major, we want to win."

But solidarity with the pariah prime minister comes from an unlikely quarter: fellow Chelsea supporter, Labour MP Tony Banks. "It's probably the only occasion when I've actually felt sorry for him," Banks told me yesterday. "He is a genuine Chelsea supporter and his presence just coincided with a bad patch."

Never let parliamentary solidarity get in the way of superstition, however. Banks added: "I'm trying to encourage him to come back - but not till after the cup game on Sunday."

Skinfuls of success

If you wish Yehudi Menuhin's mother - 100 this month - a long and happy life, be sure to toss her some grapefruit. Her daughter-in-law, Diana, has written a profile of her in The Oldie, and attributes her longevity to "bathing in ice-cold water into which she has tossed two dozen grapefruit skins or a half-dozen bottlefuls of a very smelly drink called Kwass."

This would appear to be an invention of the good lady's. Diana Menuhin explains that her mother-in-law, Marutha, concocts a nostalgic version of the native beverage of her Crimean region "composed of mare's milk and God alone knows what else. She would from time to time prepare a batch of hermetically sealed bottles and submit a few gravely to us as though it were Holy Water".

Zapped

The late rock star Frank Zappa was no stranger to the bizarre. But could his imagination have dreamed up the following scene: a military band, dressed in post-Soviet uniforms, standing to attention in the swirling snow as the loudspeakers blare out such seminal Zappa lyrics as "I'm a little pimp with my hair gassed back."

The occasion, before a crowd of 300, was the unveiling of a bust of Zappa in Vilnius by the Lithuanian Frank Zappa fan club (membership circa 20). The bust is covered by a parachute. As it is unveiled the parachute catches on Zappa's pony tail and has to be ripped off. At this moment of high drama, the military band strikes up Rock Around The Clock.

Eagle Eye

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