Diary

First, find your gas showroom

Richard Giordano, the chairman of British Gas, received a terrible hammering at yesterday's AGM, where one shareholder even criticised his pounds 470,000 annual salary. "You are paid that just for a three-day week," he was reminded by Tony Augarde, a freelance writer from Oxford. "One trembles to think of the damage that might have been done if you had been working full-time."

Our own investigations, however, show that British Gas has a secret and potentially highly effective strategy to tackle the problem of customer complaints, which have doubled since last year. Brian Simpson, of north London, tells us of his intrepid struggles to buy a cooker from British Gas. He was first obstructed by their shop closure programme; then, when he finally tracked down one of the last surviving showrooms in London (its address and number were apparently ex-directory), he was further frustrated, first by an assistant who denied knowledge of the cooker model that British Gas had been advertising the previous day ("They never tell us nuffink," was his helpful line), and then by workmen who told him he couldn't have a cooker in the space available, even though one had been happily operating there for half a century. The final advice from the showroom was: "I'd get an electric one if I were you." That'll cut the complaints.

On Wembley's green and pleasant turf

Connoisseurs of doggerel would be foolish to miss Over the Moon, a collection of "championship football poems" from Random House Children's Books to be published tomorrow. That's poems about championship football, in case you're wondering, not championship poems about football. Here's a sample, to be sung to the tune of "Jerusalem":

And did those feet, in flaming June,

Walk out on Wembley's hallowed green?

Britannia plays a welcoming tune

To host encounters European.

And did they qualify, the cream

of Scotland, Spain and Germany?

Did Jackie Charlton's boys make the team

To meet England or Italy?

That was from the bardic pen of Jimmy Hill (right) and may help to explain why the Church of Scotland has decided that "Jerusalem" is unsuitable for its hymnals. Well, they say William Blake couldn't score with an open goalmouth in front of him.

Fancy a top-up? Soon it will even be legal

There's good news today, something to bring joy to all publicans and their clientele. For the Government, in its efforts to cut back on red tape, is repealing a law that no one knew existed in the first place. Section 165 of the Licensing Act 1964, better known as the "Long Pull" prohibition, is confidently expected to be repealed today in the Lords as part of the Deregulation Bill.

For those not familiar with the 1964 Act, there is a section that makes it an offence to sell or supply to a person a measure of intoxicating liquor that is more than the amount for which he asks. In other words, until today, it has been illegal for a publican to top up a pint.

The honorary secretary of the Parliamentary Beer Club, Robert Humphreys, was bemused. "The law was presumably passed to discourage publicans from attracting more business by giving extra. I've heard of people complaining about a short measure, but to be prosecuted for a long measure is bizarre."

A thoroughly positive piece of legislation? "I'll drink to that," was his reply.

You're never old when you're a New Avenger

It's one of those far from absolutely fabulous moments in life when one's Eagle-eyes begin to wonder if it's time for spectacles, and one's feathers feel tattered. Was it really so long ago that we frittered away our youth drooling over the "New Avengers"? Joanna Lumley is 50 today. Happy birthday, Purdey.

Scunthorpe censored

Residents of Humberside: one of your towns has been officially renamed. From now on, it's Sconthorpe. According to America Online, anyway. The world's largest Internet server has been having a little problem with its filth-detecting censorship software, with the result that anyone attempting to subscribe from an address in Scunthorpe has the modem slammed down on them in a fit of prudery when they get halfway through the town's name. Would-be customers have been told that subscriptions from Sconthorpe would present no problem. As Mary Whitehouse bashers have always pointed out, if you're looking hard enough for four-letter words, you'll find them everywhere.

Eagle Eye

Like a bat out of hell, if that's OK with you

Marvin Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, the frilly shirted, sweaty, larger than life soft metal supremo, is not all he seems. In an interview with New Musical Express the 45-year-old American singer reveals not only that he is unlikely to turn to drink in his old age - he is teetotal - but he has impeccable manners to boot: "I don't think of myself as just successful," he said, "I feel blessed and I thank the audience every night. Hey, it's only polite." He is also unlikely to catch CJD. Yes, the man affectionately known as "Meat" by friends and family is a lentil-eating vegetarian. According to legend, he acquired his sobriquet in his impecunious youth after winning a potentially suicidal bet to let a friend run over his head in a car. A bystander then commented admiringly: "You must have meatloaf between your ears."

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