Diary: Getting the bird

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The Independent Online

In South Africa, post-match analysis reaches new heights of sophistication. Remember the pigeon that perched, unbudgeably, on the Algerian goal during England's dismal match on Friday? A Cape Town shaman claims that it was sent to cast a spell by an Algie-supporting witchdoctor. "That bird was there at night when birds are supposed to be sleeping... it was protecting the Algeria goal," says spooky soothsayer Olga Mokwena. What can be done? Can we air-freight a Tower of London raven, to sit on the England net tomorrow night, when we meet Slovenia? Or would it just produce a load of guano like the rest of the team?

* Aspirant Labour leader David Miliband seems a bit sensitive about never having worked outside politics. Meeting schoolkids at his alma mater, Haverstock Comprehensive in Camden, the banana-wielding ex-foreign secretary was asked if he'd ever held a "proper job." He replied, witheringly, "I think Foreign Secretary is a proper job... what you suggest sounds like [you're] harping back to a retired 1930s Tory. I'm not going to be part of the denigration of politicians." He revealed that, when young, he'd hoped to become a bus conductor. Obviously, his failure to realise his dream still hurts. Never mind, David. John Major wanted to be a bus driver, but failed. And look what happened to him.

* Michael Horovitz, veteran poet and unsinkable arts impresario, is obviously invigorated by the Oxford Poetry race, despite losing. Yesterday saw him inviting friends and fans to a reading of his Picture Poems, a look at one of his splash collages in the RA Summer Exhibition, and a symposium on the body at the Purcell Rooms. Only in passing does he mention "the somewhat turbulent Harry the Horse race for the Oxford Poetry Professorship," before dissing Geoffrey Hill as "right royal commander of the perfect pitch diction navy." Mi-aow!



* Beardy, Brit-loving, Norfolk-dwelling American facts-wrangler Bill Bryson reveals he comes from Irish rebel stock in a new magazine, Your Family History. It seems his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, "Rebel Andy" Bryson, an Ulster Presbyterian, took part in the Irish rebellion of 1798, went on the run, was captured, narrowly missed execution, escaped on board ship to America with his wife and children, and died in Pennsylvania in 1842. Could there be a book in this revelation? After Bryson lucratively mined his birthplace for Notes from a Big Country and his adoptive home for Notes from a Small Island, stand by for Notes from a Medium-Sized Insurrection, out next year.

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