Starring role in the aristocracy

The British aristocracy have a glamorous new member - Jamie Lee Curtis (below). The American actress and daughter of Tony Curtis, shortly to star with John Cleese in the follow-up to A Fish Called Wanda, is married to the British screenwriter Christopher Haden-Guest. Following the death of his father, the former UN official Peter Haden-Guest at the age of 83, Christopher succeeds to the barony.

According to Debrett's, the former Miss Jamie Lee will now be a peeress and should be addressed as Lady. Her husband will, of course, have a seat in the Lords. The new Lady Haden-Guest's mother, the actress Janet Leigh of Psycho shower death fame, says her daughter and son-in-law were both devastated by the death and have not given any thought yet to how they will fill their roles as Lord and Lady.

One friend of Jamie Lee said she loved all things British and could surprise people by taking her role as part of the English landed gentry very seriously. Roll on Henley.

A divorced duchess on the tiles?

Taking a high-minded view of all this Fergie stuff, I looked in Chambers dictionary to see whether she will, from a linguistic-pedantic viewpoint, still be a duchess after the divorce.

It says: "duchess - the consort or widow of a duke: a woman of the same rank as a duke in her own right ..." She would seem to qualify on neither of those counts.

The definition goes on: "a size of roofing slate measuring 24 x 12 inches". Which does not make things any easier.

New departures for the Fabians

I hear that the Labour Party's original think tank, the Fabian Society, is to have a new leader. Simon Crine has decided to step down, I gather, after five years as general secretary. Though he is too much of a loyalist to say so himself, friends of his tell me that he had become a little weary of the increasingly dirigiste approach of the Labour leadership.

It will be interesting to see if the Fabians, of which Mr Blair is a member, choose as his successor a confirmed Blairite or someone likely to relish intellectual challenges to policy. Mr Crine's deputy, Stephen Pollard, an advocate of selective education, has already left his post to join the Social Market Foundation.

One name to watch could be solicitor Maggie Rae, who chairs the Fabians and is a close friend of Tony and Cherie Blair.

Larkin about, but not on the Tube

London Underground has no sense of humour. Or perhaps the sense of humour has been delayed owing to staff shortages. Although it has had great success with Poems On The Underground - short verses pasted up inside tube trains for commuters to peruse - it will not be displaying any verses from Poems Not On The Underground, a book of parodies by Roger Tagholm, who writes under the alias of Straphanger.

Victoria Huxley, publishing director of Windrush Press, tells me that London Underground has turned down their requests to display the poems or even advertise them, with some brusqueness. Apparently, they were particularly angered by Mr Tagholm's pastiche of John of Gaunt's "This England" speech from Richard II, which appears as: "This blessed grubbiness, this clammy air/This broken escalator, this poor, battered, blamed/Blighted, bewildered and underfunded transport system" etc.

I preferred his version of the famous filial lament by Philip Larkin (right) - "They f*** you up the Northern Line trains/They may not mean to, but they do/They say they're coming through Camden/Whereas you know they're stuck at Waterloo." Not as erudite as the metaphysicals, but a lot more pertinent most mornings.

You just can't beat that fresh, tropical taste

I bring you a novel use of the word "new" from the world of advertising. From next Monday, viewers will be treated to a "completely new TV commercial" costing pounds 2m for the coconut confection Bounty bar. It will, boasts the commercial's blurb, "mark the end of an era for Bounty, as the traditional scenes of sandy white beaches and romantic couples are replaced".

The paradise islands, it admits, "were becoming a bit too familiar". All well and good. The ads have been around for some 20 years, after all. How odd, then, that according to the self-same blurb, the new ad will feature "a series of exotic images such as ... tropical flowers and maidens dancing on the beach".

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