Diary

I ran into Edwina Currie at a party the other night and she told me about her Valentine. It was not, however, from Snooglebum or Fluffypops. It was of the obscene variety. A bouquet of flowers arrived for her at a branch of Interflora, addressed to somewhere in Victoria. Any such gifts directed towards MPs are still closely vetted, IRA ceasefire or no IRA ceasefire, and the shop telephoned Edwina to check. "Yes, that's the address of my London flat," said the former egg-fancier, "but it's a secret. Who are the flowers from?" No idea, came the reply, but there's a note with them. "Read it out, would you?" she asked. And the mortified florist found himself delivering a rapturous hymn of praise to the Rt Hon Member for Derbyshire South about her gorgeous legs and the demesnes that therein lie. But who can have sent the foul Valentine? If I were Mrs Currie, I'd be wondering if her parliamentary colleague "Steve" Norris MP was up to his old tricks.

Cruising round the London Book Fair, and noting the relative value of British authors among the trendier second-hand dealers (a first edition of Martin Amis's Dead Babies now fetches £180; while a first ditto of Arthur Conan Doyle's final volume of Sherlock Holmes stories, His Last Bow, re-bound in sexy buckram, can be yours for a pitiful £90), I chanced upon a copy of the Strand Magazine from a century ago. It was a "Royal edition" bound in blue silk to celebrate its editors having scored the rights to publish an 1841 etching by Queen Victoria of her first child, Victoria Jnr.

While marvelling at the display of brown-nosing by the hacks of 1891 ("The little Princess is so held that the nurse's face is quite concealed, and in no way divides the attention the mother was desirous of winning for her little one"), I got engrossed in an article called "On the Decay of Humour in the House of Commons" by the Matthew Parris of his day, Henry W Lucy, who wrote under the nom de galre of "Toby, MP".

Long-winded though he is, Toby has one flash of wisdom. "There is no assembly in the world," he writes, "so pathetically eager to be amused as the House of Commons. It sits and listens entranced to bursts of sustained argument. It burns with a fierce indignation at a story of wrong-doing. It flashes with generous impulse at an invitation to do right. But it likes, above all things, to be made to laugh."

And what has brought on his conviction that the Commons will never again ring to the jollity of the golden Gladstone-Disraeli years of the 1860s? Why the closing of Commons business at midnight. "It is an indisputable fact," he argues, "that mankind is more disposed to mirth after dinner than before," and complains that "the alteration of the rules of time under which the House sits for work was fatal to redundancy of humour".

Well, well. A hundred years later, the Commons has once again scuppered any chance of Parliamentary fun by ruling against all-night sittings. The Jopling committee decreed that, from last month, debates shouldn't go beyond the mid-evening vote. So now most MPs skip off home at 10.30pm, a time when the House's characters, like Tony Banks - his head full of rock'n'roll, his speeches bulging with witty invective - are just getting under way. They must take a lesson from the past and reinstate the all- night, no-sleep-till-Hammersmith, wild-party debate without delay.

It's hard to know whether would-be mothers who steal hours-old babies are acting from foolishly benign and sentimental impulses or something more sinister. But I wonder how they would respond to a new American initiative designed to put women off the idea of going anywhere near a baby. It is part of a "teen-pregnancy prevention program" and it features a doll called Baby Think It Over. This is not a variant on the versions of Barbie and Sindy you can now buy (like the Andrea Dworkin-shaped "Happy to Be Me" Barbie) but a kind of awful warning in bendy plastic.

This infant sleeps and wets itself like any other, but in addition it screams blue murder at unpredictable intervals in the middle of the night. It is programmed to respond to the "mother" alone, who can herself shut the little beast up only by cuddling and feeding it enough. It costs $220 and is selling by the thousand.

It may sound a repellent idea, but think of the mayhem (not to mention the lives) it might save. Here's what one student - a 17-year-old with the maternal instincts of Lady Macbeth - said after testing the doll: "I took it home with me one weekend. It cried all night long. The third time it woke me, I ripped the box out of its back and totally disconnected it. The doll was just not co-operating ..."

I've been following with interest the Sun's serialisation of the life and opinions of Pamela Anderson, the American actress and star of TV's Baywatch (or Batwatch, as the paper calls it, presumably referring to some David Attenborough spin-off). Ms Anderson is an attractive woman, but her instincts, she is at pains to stress, are at several removes from traditional Californian excesses. She is something of a bookworm ("I love reading heavy books on philosophy and spiritual issues. I know I'm no bimbo") and a freelance artisan ("When I get a day off, my ideal day is working on upholstery"), who eschews drink ("Very rarely, on special occasions I might have one glass of wine ...") and can see herself "running a little shop or an animal rescue centre" should her career take some unscheduled nosedive. I'm sure it won't (since Ms Anderson also, rather artlessly, told the Sun she was shortly to start "taking acting lessons") but I'm concerned about her role as a fantasy object. To imagine Ms Anderson resuscitating you on a starlit beach is to glimpse paradise. To imagine her busily re-covering an Ottoman sofa with hammer and tintacks, pausing only to dip into Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and sip refreshing draughts of Aqua Libra, is bliss of a quite different order.

These temperamental chefs. I hear from Nico Ladenis that his long-term rival Marco Pierre White got on the phone only minutes after hearing that both men had picked up three Michelin stars (for their restaurants at the Hyde Park Hotel and Grosvenor House) and thus entered the Parnassus of modern hotel cuisine. "So tell me," Marco inquired sweetly. "Didja get it for the Eat In, or the Takeaway ...?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea