Wednesday 13 March 1996
Just as the Royal Opera House's television infamy starts to die down, its managers strike again. On Sunday night 80 staff at two of Covent Garden's more popular eateries, Brahms & Liszt and Caffe Piazza, were escorted out of their premises by burly security guards.
The reason for such treatment? Two days earlier on Friday night the Opera House, which owns both premises, had served notice on its tenants, the Maxwell chain, which stated that staff had 48 hours to vacate the premises. (The cafes are to be incorporated in the House's pounds 215m extension and refurbishment plans).
The Maxwell chain has been fighting for nearly a year to resist the loss of its eaterie sites, so feelings between the two institutions were running high well before last weekend's debacle. Waiters and the like who have lost their jobs until a new site can be found are understandably upset. They say they are unable to voice any official complaints, however, due to a gagging order. Strangely, however, Opera House marketing director Keith Cooper says he knows nothing about any gagging order. "There are no constraints from the ROH," he says, adding melliflously, "The disharmony is at an end."
Keeping a weather eye on predictions
The BBC drama series Our Friends in the North came to its conclusion on Monday night, but mystery still surrounds the origins of a shot in its penultimate episode - namely a clip of the famous 1987 weather forecast in which Michael Fish predicted, erroneously, that a hurricane was not on its way.
The strange thing about the clip is that in the early 1990s the BBC weather centre banned its further release (my spies tell me that the executives there got fed up with its repeated lampooning). Even newspapers who have wanted to run a still photograph of Fish at that moment have been refused.
So how come OFITN got hold of it? The weather centre is adamant they did not give permission for their embarrassing footage to be used. OFITN say they got it from the Beeb's news department but the news department says it does not have it to give. A spokeswoman in the press office confided that it looked to her like it was taken from a home video ... stranger and stranger. Can anybody help?
A place to rest in Rievaulx
Call me a genius (many do) - for I have found the solution to the where- to-place-Harold-Wilson's-statue puzzle. It's very simple. Wilson, who became Lord Wilson of Rievaulx in 1983, should not be placed in Huddersfield at all - (supermarket entrances aside). Instead he should be honoured in Rievaulx, (pronounced Reevo) one of northern England's mosts beautiful spots, which the late author James Herriot described as a "heavenly place" and which Wilson absolutely adored.
Rievaulx is a tiny village in North Yorkshire named after its local ruined abbey, which is one of the best preserved in the country. The North York Moors National Park, on whose edge Riveaulx is situated, is a mere 70 miles or so from Huddersfield, Wilson's birthplace. Surely it would be ideal? I have even gone so far as to sound out Stuart Copeland, senior assistant national park officer, on the issue of planning permission for the statue. I am glad to say he was optimistic.
"We view any proposal to put a statue in the vicinity of Rievaulx with an open mind and assess it on its merits," he said. "In the appropriate location it might actually enhance the area but we would have to take into consideration the nature and character of the community and see what everyone felt." Not a sniff of a car park, you notice.
A question of identity
Given that this week the press have simultaneously focused on de-selection of Tory MP David Ashby, the man who lost a libel case against a newspaper which accused him of sharing a bed with another man, and the fearless interview technique of Desert Island Discs presenter Sue Lawley in pursuit of the unmarried shadow chancellor, I am amused to find in Lawley's entry in my copy of Who's Who on Television (published by Boxtree): "m. Conservative MP David Ashby, 1d. 1s (m dissolved)".
Ms Lawley, for those who don't know, was married to David Ashby - a solicitor and no relation.
Whatever happened to the blue suede shoes?
After 40 years of quiffs and medallions, the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club's 20,000 membership has decided it's time for an image revamp. It has plucked Julie Mundy from the systems accounts department of Abbey National to be the new club president. Ms Mundy, 26, says she intends to attract a younger membership and "to remove the false image that the Elvis fan has attracted in recent years. People believe that we are either a bunch of ageing Teddy boys or a pathetic collection of jumpsuited freaks
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