Authors Amis and Barnes are pen pals once again

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The Independent Online

* The protagonists of one of the literary world's most poisonous quarrels (really quite an accolade, considering the competition) may have buried the hatchet - and not in each other's skulls.

I am delighted to announce that Julian Barnes and Martin Amis were seen locked in discussion and a "fraternal embrace" at Hyde Park's Serpentine Gallery on Wednesday night, during the paperback launch party for Barnes's novel, Arthur & George.

The rencontre offers an end to a decade of hostility between the once best of friends. Their dispute began in 1995, when Amis left his literary agent of 23 years, "Purse-Lipped" Pat Kavanagh - aka Mrs Barnes - to sign for the Harvard graduate Andrew "The Jackal" Wylie.

Barnes severed all links, writing a letter to Amis containing a phrase Amis described thus: "A well-known colloquialism. The words consist of seven letters. Three of them are Fs."

In his memoir, Experience, Amis then referred to Barnes as "uxurious" - interpreted as a suggestion that he was henpecked.

Amis said he had written to Barnes after the incident, asking: "Jules, tell me to fuck off and everything if you want - but try to stay my friend." He added: "I will call you in a while - quite a long while."

Well, 11 years on, it seems the pair have done their bit for world peace - although Barnes remains reticent, as ever, on the finer details, and was yesterday unavailable to elaborate when I called.

* The transvestite guerrilla potter Grayson Perry is no stranger to mudslinging (forgive me) and belies genteel caricatures of the medium.

The Turner Prize winner seemed disinterested in talk of this year's nominees at the Hayward Gallery's "Artists' Party" on Wednesday night - until mention of Rebecca Warren, sculptor of abstract unfired clay.

"Her work sets my teeth on edge," grimaced Perry, dressed as his alter ego Claire in a short, blue and white frilly frock, pink socks and a black bag.

"Speaking as a potter, her work is anathema to me. I say: 'Stick it in a kiln and fire it.' Before that, it's just mud."

Warren's dealer, Maureen Paley, is unimpressed. "She is not a potter and she has no desire to be a potter, or to have anything to do with Grayson Perry.

"It is very misleading if he is disparaging her work in that way."

* Good to hear that the lungs of Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel still function, despite his recent stabbing with a faulty retracting knife during Puccini's Tosca at Covent Garden.

The wheeze for Terfel's new album, Tutto Mozart, sees London cabbie Paul Murphy driving around with Terfel's strident tones piped into the back. Murphy also promises to answer questions on both composer and performer.

"I apologise to those who aren't fans and face a long trip with Mozart arias blasting your ears," Terfel says.

"But it's good to challenge stereotypes of cabbies. They need something to get away from the heavy traffic. So a high percentage listen to classical music."

Normally played at just the right volume to allow commentary on asylum-seekers...

* Students at Quinton Kynaston secondary school, Swiss Cottage, were sent home yesterday to allow Tony Blair to defend his premiership.

"It is disgraceful that students are missing their education for a PR stunt," says the Socialist Teachers Alliance. "If trade unionists were striking to shut a school Blair would denounce us."

Yesterday morning, he visited an Isle of Dogs primary school to hear four-year-olds read. "Tony smiled as the kids read words beginning with the hard letter C sound: cat, cake, caterpillar, etc," I'm told.

"We wanted to ask him if he could think of any words beginning with C he's used about his Chancellor recently. A classroom probably wasn't the place."

* Oddly, perhaps, for a man keen to vaunt his heterosexuality, Robbie Williams has taken issue with a regional newspaper article claiming he is a sex addict. The Yorkshire Post wrote that the pop star "had admitted to therapy to cure [his] insatiable appetite for sex".

Yesterday, the paper published a grovelling retraction when Williams's legal ranks adopted an offensive formation outside the editor's office. "We now accept that the reference was wholly inaccurate and misleading," it read, "and we sincerely apologise for any distress Mr Williams may have suffered as a result of the article."

Distress? Has Robbie read the countless reams of drivel written about him during the past 17 years?

pandora@independent.co.uk

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