Diary

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The Independent Online
A Scottish tragedy of far greater proportions than any mere Shakespeare play or Liam Neeson movie has occurred in the Highlands. Wailing and gnashing of teeth may be heard resonating from at least 40 stately piles. The cause? This year's Oban ball, scheduled for Thursday and the smartest of all the Scottish balls is, for the first time, seriously oversubscribed. At least 40 Scottish hostesses have had their pounds 100 cheques returned; the number of their guests (sometimes referred to as "the Surrey Scots"), who have already bought plane tickets, new ball gowns, and booked a week's holiday, is reckoned to be in the hundreds. "It is," says one hostess, "an unprecedented disaster."

Oban marks the debut of the reeling season and is a truly grand affair, often graced by some of our own Royals, along with Scotland's premier peers, the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. "Dress is Highland evening dress or white tie," says the club steward, Hugh Service. "Women's dresses must touch the floor and the men must keep their jackets on. We've seen a few shirtsleeves in recent years - quite revolting."

Maximum capacity in the Oban Gathering Hall is 400 - a figure that usually neatly matches the number of the members of the public wanting to attend the event. "Sometimes I've had to refuse last-minute requests because we are full," explains Mr Service, "but this is most unusual. We just can't explain it. Could it be that people are doing better financially? Or perhaps it is another by-product of this summer's boiling weather. It reminds people, you see, that they want to be in Scotland."

Far more exciting than the entirely predictable thumbs down just given to independence by Bermuda's population is a post-hurricane discovery on the island. The ruins of a house, thought to be more than a thousand years old, have been unearthed on a beach belonging to Bermuda's most exclusive resort, the Coral Beach Club (Anton Mosimann is the consultant chef there).

"Last week's Hurricane Felix completely transformed the place," says the assistant manager, Julie Crook. "Rocks and boulders now stand where there used to be white sand. And in the middle of what was the beach, there is the remains of a very old but remarkably modern-style house."

Sadly, the unromantic guests at the pounds 200-a-night club are far more concerned about when they will be able to dine on the beach terrace again - a rather impractical proposition at present.

"As a result of the hurricane, coconuts still keep dropping everywhere," Mrs Crook explained, "so we've all been told to walk round wearing those awful moped helmets."

After a year's hard work, Charles Seaford, a 37-year-old former marketing consultant, and the ex-Financial Times journalist David Goodhart, 39, are hard at work in their Bedford Square offices, putting the final touches to their new "pluralistic" political monthly, Prospect. "The first edition will be launched on 28 September," says Seaford, also a former adviser to Bryan Gould (the real one).

The magazine - as is increasingly fashionable for ideas forums these days - has sponsors of all political colours. Barry Cox (Tony Blair's holiday host) waves the red flag in one corner, while Oliver Letwin (former Thatcher private-office adviser, Rothschild bigwig and Tory candidate for Dorset West) waves the blue in the other.

Surprisingly, however, backing from the founder's own families has not been so easy to obtain. Yesterday Goodhart was still chuckling over a letter from his older brother Arthur, a self-employed literary agent. One passage, described by the writer as "constructive criticism", runs: "To say that you, David Goodhart, are going to start and run a small business seems to me to be so improbable, unwise and out of character as to actually be quite funny ... I would not dream in investing in such a venture."

Says Goodhart Jnr: "A few years ago Arthur was offered the chance to invest in VIZ when it was starting up and he refused. So I can't help feeling this bodes rather well."

Female hearts across London have been sighing in sympathy for the Scottish journalist and right-wing aficionado Michael Gove. In addition to his day (and night) job as a reporter for the BBC's Today programme, Gove, 28, has spent the last year or so laboriously penning an unauthorised biography of the Ribena Kid, Michael Portillo, The Future of the Right. But his publishers, Fourth Estate, do not think it seemly to give him a launch party. "Launch parties nowadays are the exception, not the rule," explains a spokeswoman. "In Michael's case, the book is out on 9 October at the start of the Tory party conference and it would be embarrassing if Mr Portillo did not appear."

Fortunately for Gove, his enterprising girlfriend, Amanda Foreman, daughter of the late Oscar-winning screenwriter Carl Foreman, is not one to let such a situation pass unrectified. She has solicited the aid of female friends whose hearts have been similarly touched by this unfeeling treatment of Gove. These include Lizzie Noel, 27, a young Tory politico writing a book on prison reform, who has agreed to host a party for 100 people in her house near Hyde Park in mid-October. Fourth Estate is contributing to the booze (Ribena and Rioja, appropriately) and everyone is happy - including, I suspect, Michael Portillo. My bet is he will turn up, since most unusually for unauthorised accounts, he has not hindered Gove's research one jot.

It has not exactly been a repeat of last year's triumphant Edinburgh Festival for the 1994 Perrier Award winner, Lee Evans, and nominee Rhona Cameron. Evans was charged yesterday with assaulting someone with a piece of broken glass while Cameron, anchor television presenter for BBC2's Gay TimeTV, was charged in court last Friday with breach of the peace and contravening the Scottish Police Act. (Allegedly, she head-butted a policeman outside a pub). Cameron, whose real name is Rhona Campbell, is on bail until October. Says one among her audiences: "It's just a bit unfortunate for Ms Cameron that the poster advertising her Edinburgh show is a blow-up of her fist clenched in anger."

Last word on the Bryan Gould/Nick Howard fiasco: on Friday the cry went up from Evening Standard hacks: "The penalty has been paid: the fax has been sacked!"

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