Diary

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The Independent Online
It's proving to be a glorious summer for ghouls. First, they had the cadavers, artily photographed in a morgue by Andres Serrano, to inspect at the Portfolio Gallery, Edinburgh (passers-by were outraged, even though they had to crane their necks painfully to see the offensive flesh). Now any self-respecting necrophile is booking the next train to Sheffield, where the British UFO Research Association is holding its eighth annual conference at what used to be the local polytechnic. It's not the lectures by delegates from the Russian Academy of Sciences that will attract them; it's the infamous Roswell Tape.

You haven't heard of it? It's a 20-minute monochrome film that was taken in 1947 after the debris of a crashed flying saucer was found beside the Roswell air base in New Mexico, and shows not the saucer but its crew: in particular, one dome-headed, lizard-eyed, six-fingered, six-toed homunculus, possibly female, on whom the airfield's doctors are seen performing a post-mortem examination. Those who can't afford the fare to Sheffield can watch the thing being investigated on Channel 4's Secret History on Monday.

The ghouls will be glad to hear of a third outbreak of chic gore: Kiss FM, the radio station, has unveiled its new ad campaign. One double- page image portrays a corpse with its heart dangling on the outside, suspended by a fibrous string from a neat hole in the thorax. "Sooner or later," chirps the copy-line, "your next heartbeat becomes your last...." And the sooner yours the better, matey, one feels like replying. An alternative come-on carries a picture of a hypodermic needle, with the words, "You're an addict...." These charming images are, let me remind you, for a radio station, one that used to advertise itself with the words: "Everyone likes a little Kiss in the morning." Somewhere between Benetton and Damien Hirst, the Nineties image bank has gone well and truly into the red.

I've always considered myself built on tall and stately lines: 6ft 2 and gracefully tapering outwards, the farther south you go - like the Empire State Building but without the radio mast or the iffy drainage system. How humbling, then, to encounter the Tall Persons Club, a perfectly serious convocation of 1,400 elongated citizens who meet now and again for (I assume) tall cocktails in high-ceilinged rooms and make little jokes about what the weather's like down there at waiter level. They didn't greet my application to join with cries of "Piss off, shortarse", but it was close. Their puniest members, they kindly explained, are 6ft 6. Thirty of them are over 7ft. They count among their number the giraffe- like Chris Greener (7ft 6 and in the Guinness Book of Records) and a contingent of Tall Babes ("We have three ladies of 6ft 8 and we're aware of a lady of 6ft 10, but she's 72 and doesn't want to join").

Tomorrow they're all gathering at the Swallow Gosforth Park in Newcastle for their AGM (you can imagine the consternation of the drunks in the bar as they all filter in) where they'll discuss the logistical iniquities of hospital beds - the longest available in any big hospital is 6ft 6 - the leg-pitch of public transport, airplanes, standard doorways, office chairs and desks, and other urgent matters. "The human race is growing taller all the time," says the club's intensely vocal and politicised spokesman, Phil Heinricy (6ft 8), who harbours a special grudge against clothes manufacturers. One of the few non-Tallies to escape his wrath is, surprisingly, Andrew Lloyd-Webber: "Last year the club went to see Sunset Boulevard at the Adelphi, and he'd taken out several seats to make sure we were comfortable."

Though membership of this cloud-scraping throng eludes me, I'm on their side. All they need is a slogan to indicate the way society conspires against them. Down with ... ? I've got it: apart-height.

No media illness of modern times has elicited such a flood of sympathy as has the stroke sustained by Robert McCrum, glamorous editorial boss of Faber & Faber. Since he was was stricken three weeks ago, the entire publishing globe has surged to his bedside, bringing precious news back to the waiting masses at the Groucho Club. A friend went to see McCrum this week at the National Hospital. Get-well cards from the globe's leading authors litter his bedside, she reported, flower arrangements of Babylonian proportions festoon his couch of recuperation. And his eating regimen, does he manage to force down a little chicken soup every now and then? "Get real," said the hospital visitor. "Ruthie Rogers sends his dinner round every evening from the River Cafe..."

Nice to see Joan Littlewood, toothy firebrand of the old Theatre Workshop, hasn't lost her confrontational streak. During an interview two months ago to plug her splendidly indiscreet autobiography, Joan's Book, she was asked about the BBC's forthcoming radio production of Oh, What a Lovely War!, which she devised and directed in the Fifties. What production is this? she asked. Ms Littlewood demanded to hear a tape of the show and pronounced herself belligerently dissatisfied. She called her lawyers and arranged to sue the BBC for "breach of moral copyright", whatever that is. (The Beeb went ahead with the broadcast).

Only when Ms Littlewood's briefs pointed out that she risked losing pounds 20,000 in legal costs did she back down - but she vowed never to darken the doors of Broadcasting House again. I assume everything is sweetness and light again; else why should she be appearing in Radio 4's October adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu's Uncle Silas (in which a sinister gap- toothed governess is horribly murdered)?

God rest Len Martin, the recently deceased voice of Grandstand, the chap who used to read out the classified football results every Saturday afternoon. I remember watching television, aged five or six, baffled but mesmerised by the smoothly urbane voice murmurously rising and falling through an endless litany of names and scores. Martin was particularly good at the Scottish ones, turning the words "Stenhousemuir" and "Queen of the South" into stirring, heathery mini-dramas. But something bothers me. I have searched the obituary columns high and low and can find no trace of what Mr Martin was most famous for. Is it true that he only faltered once ever, when faced with the scoreline "Firth of Forth 4, Forfar 5"?

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