Diary

On Saturday night, respectable residents of Streatham, south London, heard for the first time in 20 years a din emanating from Ambleside Avenue. Alarmed, they shook their heads, locked their doors and told their teenage children to stay in: Cynthia Payne was holding her final party.

It was, according to Payne party veterans, a most nostalgic affair. There were men dressed as vicars, retired prostitutes dressed in rubber, wielding whips, and plenty of bedroom activity - all in the incongruous surroundings of Payne's typically neat suburban decor - flowery wallpaper and patterned carpets. "Just like the old days," guests kept muttering, while la grande dame was misty-eyed with emotion. She held the party as a final tribute to days gone by, since, in the style of the Princess of Wales, she is retiring "from public life".

Even local cabbies who collected guests in the small hours shed a tear or two. "Before you get in, we better tell you we don't accept luncheon vouchers," they told passengers jokingly, sighing afterwards: "we haven't had to say that for 20 years."

Delegates attending the conference of the International Telecommunications Union, opened by Nelson Mandela in Geneva yesterday, perked up when they learnt that security required them each to have a conference code-name. "Mine is Sibelius," a BBC executive announced excitedly, "and I know that someone else's is Presley. The million-dollar question is, what is John Birt's?" The Beeb men plan, I believe, to walk up to Birt throughout the convention calling him every composer's name from Bach to Strauss until he acknowledges one. Ah well. I guess it beats talking about the telecommunications industry.

In the good old days MPs existed to help and represent their constituents. Alas, it seems that nowadays Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Tory MP for Cirencester and Tewkesbury thinks he is far too busy for such humdrum concerns. He recently received a letter from 18-year-old Amy Street, an A-level student at a Cotswold comprehensive, asking for literature on Tory Party policy on Europe to help her for her history coursework project comparing current divisions in the party over Europe with those provoked by the Corn Laws in 1846.

It seems, however, that Mr Clifton-Brown's sensibilities were offended by her approach. Instead of responding to Ms Street, he wrote to her headmaster, saying: "It is really not the function of a Member of Parliament to assist students with their courses ... this request is going well beyond the parameters of an MP ... I would be most grateful if you would pass on this information to all your staff to preclude other students writing with similar requests."

Ms Street, an intelligent lady, on course for Oxford, is understandably miffed. "All I wanted was a leaflet. I hardly think he would have got a deluge of pestering letters," she says. "He also had the cheek to send me a letter on my 18th birthday - because, no doubt, he wants my vote at the general election." Something tells me he's blown that one.

Speaking of Tory splits on Europe, this week sees the launch of Andrew Roberts's debut thriller, The Aachen Memorandum, a work of unadulterated propaganda for the Eurosceptic cause (Roberts is the historian who joined John Redwood's bandwagon in the summer). His book is set in the United States of Europe in 2045 where evil and corruption abound in government (of course) and the good guys are the insurrectionist movement of Nats (nationalists).

The most mystifying thing about this book is the identity of the man upon whom Roberts has based his fat, balding, but none the less very brilliant asthmatic journalist hero, Horatio Lestoq.

Vestigially, he is undoubtedly Matthew d'Ancona, a fellow of All Souls and assistant editor of the Times who published the controversial Irish Framework document earlier this year. Roberts labels Lestoq the "demon document detective" - a reference to d'Ancona's forthcoming publication alleging that certain fragments found at Oxford are eye-witness accounts of Christ. "There are also," Roberts concedes, "parts of Dean Godson - a Sunday Telegraph leader writer - in him." But Lestoq has one character trait that d'Ancona assures me he does not recognise. The man is a regular Lothario. And when he isn't actually in bed with a pouting mega-babe, he has sex on the brain. "When he gets to the bedroom, all resemblance to me ends," says d'Ancona firmly. "That's the part of him that was unmistakably Andrew Roberts [recently married] in his bachelor days. "

To the launch of Prospect, Britain's new pluralistic political monthly magazine, which, it must be said, bears a closer resemblance to an inflight magazine, on the outside at least, than to any august political journal. Still, the party at Senate House, in Bloomsbury, London, was, to everybody's enormous surprise, packed. Many, including John Brown, owner of Viz magazine, had not got a clue why they had been asked. "I don't understand it," Brown told friends. "David Goodhart [Prospect's editor] asked me to contribute to the magazine's funding. I refused - not very politely - yet he still asked me."

But all became clear when Goodhart got up to speak. He thanked all those who had contributed and all those who hadn't - for the latter he said had stiffened his resolve to publish. "That's why I decided to invite them tonight ... they know who they are,'' he declared. At which point several in the room, Brown included, stared fixedly into their drinks.

Those of you who can recall from Four Weddings and a Funeral, Duckface's floral bridal arrangement - surely one of the factors that caused Grant's character to jilt her at the altar - may be interested to know that its manufacturer has written a book called Wedding Flowers, published this month. In the manner of Hugh Grant, the florist Simon Lycett, 28, has acquired fame on the back of FWAF. Not only has Ebury press asked him to write the book on wedding arrangements, but he has also just finished doing the flowers for the forthcoming film Restoration, starring Meg Ryan and Robert Dowey jnr. "My next project is Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night," he tells me happily. At last! A suitable period for that revolting flowery headpiece.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?