Diary

A whole generation of early-Seventies groovers has been in deep shock at the news of Viv Stanshall's death. Few of us had the deep joy of watching the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band performing live, but Stanshall's vivid brand of elegantly bonkers surrealism left its mark on millions of record-buyers. As English as Frank Cooper's marmalade, as talented as John Lennon, as culturally attuned as Jonathan Miller, Stanshall made us laugh at a time when it was cripplingly uncool to be funny.

When I heard he had died, I did a quick telephone poll of friends. It revealed that the lyrics of his best song, "The Intro and the Outro" - that ludicrously protracted introduction of a band of unlikely musicians - are buried deep in the fortysomething psyche like a five-minute catch- phrase: "Princess Anne on souzaphone ... a sessions gorilla on vox humana ... General de Gaulle on accordion - really wild, General ... Max Jaffa on violin - mmm, that's nice Max." It all came roaring back down the telephone wires, like a secular catechism, unconsciously learnt and never forgotten. And if you want the folk memory of 1973-74, it was of being in a roomful of stoned students, all waiting for the moment, among the druggy noodlings of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, when Stanshall's voice comes in and announces: "Grand piano ..."

I'd like to play the record to Tony Blair - who was precisely the right age, in the right place and at the right time to be a Stanshall fan - just to see if he could identify the climactic moment before I could.

Birds do it; bees do it; even educated Greens do it. The urgent debate about the rights and wrongs of making physical contact with your professional colleagues has been heating up nicely this week. All over the nation, burly Lotharios have been demonstrating to their quaking female co-workers just how far you're allowed to go, according to the Green Party, in the way of comradely embraces. Hand on arm - yes. Hand on thigh - no. Arm round shoulder - yes. Arm round waist - certainly not. Slap on back - yes. Full-scale bear-hug - God no (shriek). It's all been quite an education for anyone who, like me, has been a serial fondler and free-range masseur for years.

Some offices lend themselves more readily than others to this kind of behaviour. Here at the Independent, we're typically advanced. Kisses, hugs and hand-holding are practically mandatory. I despair of the benighted employees of other organisations who view the business of colleague-caressing as somehow objectionable. Their chief spokesperson seems to be Nigella Lawson, the severe Times columnist, who on Tuesday observed: "On the whole, and sensibly enough, women do not want to go round flinging their arms around the men in the office. They are not having to restrain themselves. It is, frankly, not that tempting."

Indeed not. But can this be the same Nigella Lawson with whom I shared an office at a Sunday newspaper for a few weeks in the Eighties? The one who, appalled by my stumbling attempts to master the computer system, finally cracked and, with a brisk "Look, it's very simple ...", came and sat on my lap? I cannot, sadly, impute any motive to her action beyond girlish exasperation. But if anyone would care to make a film of this thrilling moment, can I ask that the person they get to play me is shown to have a slightly greater sense of proportion than Michael Douglas?

The more unwelcoming elements of the literary world have been wondering what in George Walden's curriculum vitae makes him a natural choice as chairman of this year's Booker Prize judges. Where, they ask, are his creative works? Where are his reviews? Where, God dammit, is any evidence of any literary discrimination of any kind? I can understand their grudging tone - it is, after all, a position held in the past by such starry eminences as Professors John Carey, Richard Cobb, John Bayley and George Steiner - but I am happy to stick up for the sitting Member (Cons) for Buckingham.

"Obviously, I am an amateur," he modestly told the London Evening Standard, "though literature and criticism have been my life ever since an adolescent affair with an older woman, Karenina by name." Mr Walden is too modest. My researches reveal that he did once write a review, in Books & Bookmen, November 1984, of six books on Chinese history. So that's OK then.

Interestingly, the review strikes a topical note, when Mr Walden asks, rhetorically: "If, as I believe, we are more distant culturally from Europe - and especially from France - than [we have been] for many decades, how much can we presume to know about China?" Perhaps the Tory whips' office might like a quiet word with Mr Walden before he embarks on his marathon reading stint.

Another slightly odd choice for literary evaluation is Alan Clark, the irascible diarist and indefatigable horizontal jogger, who has been amusing the panel judging the 1995 AT&T Award for non-fiction, of which he is chairman. No one would call Mr Clark an overbearing chairman, but he kicked off the proceedings by telling his co-judges (Sheridan Morley, Ruth Leon, Val Hennessy and June Formby) that their meetings would be conducted along parliamentary rules. "No one may speak while the chairman is speaking," he growled, "and if you wish to speak, you must raise your hand." He was quite surprised, apparently, when the entire meeting burst into spontaneous laughter.

I paid a recent visit to Lewisham, quite possibly London's grottiest borough, to see my friend Chris, who lectures once a week at the local college of further education. We met at a neighbouring pub, which was filled with the most heinous and terrifying press-gang of plug-ugly cut- throats and desperados I have ever seen outside an Oliver Stone movie. Chris seemed strangely unmoved by their looming presence. Didn't they bother him? "Hardly," he said. "They're students." Good heavens. Of what? "The most popular courses in the college. They're both packed out, two nights a week. Courses Number 1864 and 1865 in the brochure. The Installation and Maintenance of Burglar Alarms ..."

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence