Diary

The fevered speculation is over at last. I can reveal, exclusively, that the winner of this year's Bad Sex Prize - the Literary Review's annual award for the most allegedly risible piece of descriptive writing about sex - goes to my chum Philip Kerr, for a spectacular effort in the middle of his new novel, Gridiron, soon to be filmed by Working Title. How rude is it? Mr Kerr, formerly an enthusiastic ladies' man, now happily married, kindly reads me the offending passage. After some foreplay involving a lady's knickers (described as "a little Stealth bomber of black silk", which I think is awfully good), Kerr continues: "Quickly he threw off his own clothes and rolled on top of her. Detaching mind from over-eager gnomon and its exquisitely appointed shadowy task, he began to make love to her... ."

What could anyone object to about that? "I think it's the word gnomon," says Kerr suspiciously. "It means the bit that sticks up from a sundial and casts a shadow. Perhaps Bron [Waugh] and Co object to someone using words they don't understand."

The evening after the Princess of Wales's spectacular (if over- rehearsed) confession, I found myself in Downing Street. Not, you'll be surprised to learn, briefing the Cabinet on the constitutional position vis-a-vis the royal succession, but at No 11, at a party for the Arvon Foundation, of which the Chancellor's wife is just one of numerous starry mates. Lords Jenkins and Gowrie, Jung Chang and Doris Lessing, Maurice Saatchi and Josephine Hart processed up the Exchequer-minder's staircase under the stern gaze of Pitt, Palmerston, Disraeli and Stanley Baldwin, arrayed on the pink silk wallpaper. Ted Hughes complained about the deadening effect of universities on the creative temperament and Patricia Hodge read a poem. It was, of course, a money-raising venture; they're looking for pounds 1m to subsidise courses for teachers, to invigorate them with a passion for teaching the craft of writing.

I myself had a modest success in Arvon circles a few years ago, when I tutored a throng of 16 mutinous students in "Creative Journalism" down in Totleigh Barton, a Hardyesque bothy in the middle of hayseed Devon, where you were thought lucky if you had the Second Pigsty to sleep in and the students took turns in cooking cataclysmic lentil dishes for all to share. At the time, it cost pounds 100 for five days' board, lodging and creative peace and quiet.

Now it's pounds 260, a farcically small price for such a treat. My only regret is that they don't do Creative Journalism any more. Sounds a bit too close to "Lies", I suppose.

What do you call a gathering of cartoonists? A strip? A punch line? A friend spotted a convention of gagsters on the Eurostar as it thundered home from Paris on Monday afternoon. Arrayed on the table before the artists were several rapidly emptying bottles of French Trappist beer, a uniquely sticky brew that plays hell with your clothes. As the train thundered across the absinthe-flavoured meadows, the genial band drank and joked and everything was right with the world. Then they hit the tunnel and a minute later, without warning or ceremony, the train screeched to an emergency halt. Lights flickered out, bottles flew and a tidal wave of Trappist beer landed all over Nick Newman (Sunday Times, Private Eye). When the lights came on again he was a sodden mess, wailing "I'm completely drenched!"

The neurotic French tourists and stoic Brits in the carriage laughed nervously. (Why had the bloody thing stopped?) That was when David Austin (Guardian, Private Eye) decided to capitalise on the lightness of atmosphere. "Not half as drenched as you're about to be," he bantered, indicating the ceiling, above which lurked 150 feet of seawater.

A score of heads swivelled upwards. Hearts missed beats. Pulse rates soared. Embolisms raced hither and thither. The carriage fell as silent as Davy Jones's Locker.

Marvellous chap for cheering you up, the professional humorist.

Call for Miss Marple! Agatha Christie's homely solver of provincial whodunnits would, I've always thought, have had a fine time in Hampstead, where white-collar crime and poison-pen letters are a familiar part of the diurnal round. But what would she make of the news that Fay Weldon, the superstar novelist, was burgled the other day? And that the only thing the miscreants seemed to take was a file containing all her correspondence with her former agent, Giles Gordon, discussing contractual arrangements for books recent and forthcoming?

"We updated the filing system only recently, so there's no question about it," says Ms Weldon, who called in the police. "It's very peculiar". Mr Gordon, who until recently represented such classy scribes as Peter Ackroyd, Sue Townsend and the Prince of Wales but has now moved up to Scotland, was not around to comment on his new status as sought-after letter-writer. Can it be possible that Ms Weldon's records of her agent's endeavours on her behalf have touched the heart of a devoted, if misguided, reader, and that he has decided to purloin these worthless documents for his own (and posterity's) use? It's the only explanation I can think of.

"We didn't set out to discredit the Duke of Windsor," explained the producer of Edward VIII: The Traitor King on Greater London Radio yesterday morning. "Why would we want to do a thing like that?" A hard question to answer, although the words "Because it would make a good telly programme" occur to me.

What, though, did it remind me of? Ah yes, the Princess of Wales, when answering the biggest question of all on Monday. "Once or twice I've heard people say to me, you know, 'Diana's out to destroy the monarchy', which has bewildered me, because why would I want to destroy something that is my children's future?" Another good question, to which there are at least a dozen incendiary replies.

And that, in turn, reminded me of someone else: Michael Jackson, who, when interviewed by Oprah Winfrey two years ago, answered every difficult question the same way. "Did I buy the bones of the Elephant Man? No! Why would I want to do that?" "Do I sleep in a coffin? Naow! Why would I ... ?"

You get the idea. The rhetorical question - a sure sign that its user is hiding something - is well and truly flourishing.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape