Diary

To Soho for supper the other night to the splendidly authentic austerity of the Tokyo Diner, whose owner, Richard Hills - or Hirrs as the friendly waiter spelt it - is entrenched in a long-running battle with Westminster Council. Its planners, it seems, object to the thin strips of pale wood and Japanese lanterns which Mr Hirrs has affixed to the facade in emulation of the many he encountered during his years in Japan. Not in keeping with local environment, say the placemen. All of which seems hard to credit as the local environs consist of the backside of the Hippodrome, a gaudily daubed Corals' betting shop and a garish pub called the Polar Bear, which is festooned with canvas swathes advertising its bargain beers.

Mr Hirrs seems nonplussed. Perhaps things will change when the planning department is privatised, he says. Privatised? How do you privatise a planning department? In some nations it would just mean paying the bribes over instead of under the counter. Not in Westminster. I phoned my planning dept mole to inquire. "Yes, they're doing a report into it," Moley said. "I can't say it seems much of an idea myself, but that's not the way my political masters see it."

After a week of your helpful suggestions I am none the wiser about my bank's cash machine message: "Never use a temporary card reader." A number of people took the request seriously and began detailed technical accounts of hi-tech bank card fraudsters. Most of these began with variants of "the answer is obvious" and then each proceeded to outline entirely different explanations.

More intriguing was the suggestion from M Joy in Mold that it was the product of a dyslexic programmer and should have read: "Never sue a Tipperary car dealer". Peter Stringer, from Huddersfield, offered a lengthy story about Moscow sandwich machines which consist of old ladies who sit inside and push unwrapped chunks of bread to you through a slot when you put in your roubles. Martin Brown in Coventry, who suggests it is style advice from a faulty voice-recognition computer, wins the bottle of Bollinger I offered, not so much for his revelation that the slogan should read: "Leather shoes are tan for any car trader" as for the lengthy table of sartorial advice he reckons it will next offer to housing association tenants, mortgagees, money launderers and even bank robbers. Still no word from the NatWest.

The row about the acceptability of split infinitives boils down to whether grammar is a tool for making communication easier or whether it is an arcanum to demarcate the really educated from the plebs.

But why restrict yourself to split infinitives when split infinities could be the battleground? It all brings to mind the satirical advertisement passed around sub rosa by fairly distinguished chaps in the Vatican when the Pope was putting the final touches to the new Catholic Catechism. It ended: "Order now and get a free New Testament obfuscator ... the handy reference work that allows you to turn all the saying and deeds of Jesus into rules and regulations - right in your own home."

What is it about books that endows them with the qualities we normally attribute only to people? Just as the burning of a book provokes a sense of unease so the abandonment of one induces something approaching that of pity. I found a couple of boxes of books dumped in a skip the other day. There, among the broken-up fireplace and the distraught venetian blinds, lay Short Exercises in Latin Prose Composition by the Rev Henry Belcher (1927) and The Cowley Carol Book, compiled and arranged by the Rev GR Woodward, with translations from the old German. They sat in a forlorn film of dust alongside Manzoni's I Promessi Sposi in the original, a Polish grammar primer and Julian Huxley's Religion without Revelation.

Who had once treasured these melancholy foundlings and what unseen force had broken their life apart? As I sifted through, the mystery only deepened. There was God's Bandit by Douglas Hyde, the one-time editor of the Morning Star, who famously abandoned Communism for Catholicism in (I think) the 1950s. It was signed by Eamon de Valera. There was Dawson's seminal Religion and the Modern State with a charming frontispiece by Eric Gill. Eerily it had been inscribed more than 40 years ago in the hand of an old friend of mine who died some months ago. Most mysteriously there was a small volume with a blank white binding. It turned out to be a copy of the New English Bible, cared for, and with its dust-jacket turned inside out as if someone was ashamed to be throwing it away. Closer inspection revealed that the jacket had been reversed long ago, as though its owner was wont to read it in a railway carriage surrounded by Daily Sport readers.

Like a would-be parent in an orphanage I made my selection, then carried my new charges home, holding them carefully, as if they might bruise. That evening I passed the skip again and was pleased to find that the box was quite empty. The others had been adopted, too.

Sob story of the week: Yesterday I received a letter from my publishers telling me that two of my books are to be remaindered and asking me if I wanted to buy them at a discount. Me? I've already got a copy of both. Aargh! I tell you this partly on the principle beloved of vicars and therapists about the efficacy of sharing suffering - this is the ultimate authorial nightmare. But partly I would welcome suggestions.

There are 903 copies left of my 1993 children's book Daniel and the Mischief Boy - true(ish) stories from an African village for 8- to 10-year-olds (UK price pounds 5.99), just in case there are any full-price readers left out there. But there are a towering 8,572 copies left of Promised Lands (1992, pounds 7.99 - stories of power and poverty in the struggle for land in the Third World, with splendid pix by ace photographer Mike Goldwater). This is not as bad as it sounds, since the print run was 20,000.

Yet what can you do with 8,572 copies of a book on Third World land reform? Another bottle of Bolly for the best idea. The book is about 7" by 9" and is half-an-inch thick - information which, I predict, the more technological or literal readers will probably require.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
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
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform