Diary

Leafing through my monthly computer-buff magazine (I get it for the gatefold pin-ups) and running an eye down the lists of new CD-Rom software programmes, I stop short by the "Literature" section. For some time it has been possible to call up the Bible on computer screen, and the complete Sherlock Holmes stories and a "Darwin Multimedia" package and so forth; but here's something new. For £38 you can now buy the karaoke Macbeth.

As I understand it (the chap down the phone wasn't entirely on the case), you can screen the whole play on CD, but with one of the parts taken out, so the viewer can "stand in", deploying his or her best Johnny Gielgud/Judi Dench voice. You can bellow abuse at the witches, tell your recalcitrant husband where to screw his courage, even be Banquo's ghost if you like traumatising on-screen dinner parties. A wonderful idea. What next? The interactive Nicholson Baker?

All over town there are sounds of furious, frenzied scribbling. The capital's poets, novelists and dramatists are writing against the clock, as a new, undreamt-of deadline looms: the end of The Late Show. They've got barely eight months in which to finish their current masterpiece and hustle themselves on to the show, there to be surrounded with all the paraphernalia of Cultural Studies TV - the back-projected video of pages turning, the gnomic interventions of sinister-looking literary types filmed through an infra-red filter and at an acute angle to the screen, the thin smile of Michael Ignatieff ...

For six years the show has been the late-night home of so many lost causes: Icelandic yodellers, Mesopotamian brickwork designers, new-wave clavicordists, post-modern Herzigovian chanteuses, Druid shoe fetishists, serial-killer belletrists, no-hoper wattle-and-daub architects, barbershop-quartet nuns - they've all had their solemnly introduced, studio-discussioned 15 minutes of fame. Like a transmedial Statue of Liberty, the show welcomed the poor, the tired, the transparently bogus and the occasionally terrific. It even had a cute, home-grown name for its putative audience: the Zeitgeist Surfers.

Every arty dilettante will mourn its passing and remember its golden moments: the piece on night architecture, about the transformation of ugly buildings by floodlights; Mark Cooper's awesomely creepy profile of Henry Rollins, the belligerent singer; the hilarious book interviews that broke down through mutual incomprehension (Nigel Williams with Ben Okri, Paul Morley with Hanif Kureishi); the round-table discussion on comedy that ended with Keith Allen screaming abuse at the assembled funsters ...

At the launch party for Nick Hornby's novel, High Fidelity, I ran into Tracy McLeod, who has presented umpteen Late Shows over the years. What had been her worst moment? "Interviewing Brenda Ogdon," she said without hesitation. "It was just after the screening of a BBC film on her husband John Ogdon, the pianist, played by Alfred Molina. She'd only just seen the film, and it began to dawn on her during the interview that she'd been portrayed as a monster. By the end she was threatening us with lawyers. It was an ... uncomfortable episode." But such good television. Hats off, zeitgeist surfers.

The groaning shelf of books on public-school homosexuality will groan more than usual this month, with the publication of The Poisoned Bowl: Sex, Repression and the Public School System, by Alisdare Hickson, who wrote to scores of whiskery Etonians and Marlburians asking for their memories of dormitory hanky-panky. Its contributors range from Alan Ayckbourn (who used to "write scurrilous poetry for the object of other people's desires") to the ex-High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago (who remembers "masses of homosexuality" at Rugby in the Forties, though he himself never got beyond the billet-doux stage) with, in between, several senior parliamentarians and rear-admirals contributing their louche memories.

In my proof copy, one entry has been blacked out; but using the techniques of an Old Master restoration agency, I have deciphered it. It relates to Max Hastings, the Daily Telegraph's manly editor (who was at Charterhouse in the late Fifties) and records the information that he did not undergo any Ganymede-like experiences at the hands of other boys in his school career - though he goes on to add that it was perhaps because he wasn't sufficently attractive. Hastings's modest reply to Hickson's letter was not, it seems, intended for publication.

Great Movie Performances That Never Were, No. 25: I promise never to write another word about Martin Amis after this, but I was intrigued to hear, at his platform appearance at the National Theatre on Monday, that Money, his great novel of 1984, was almost filmed. "It was going to star Gary Oldman [as John Self, the book's clapped-out, gluttonous, cash-obsessed semi-literate hero], who understood the character immediately," said Amis. "We went to see him in Yugoslavia, when he was doing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead [the film of the Stoppard play, directed by Stoppard]. He said: `Siddown, I got a great new cough ...' And it really was good. Like when people try to talk through a really terrible cough, and end up weeping ..." Amis shook his head at the memory. "Shame it never happened. As much a tragedy for you as for me ..."

I don't want to sound like a retired brigadier, but have you seen what they charge you for tea and coffee these days? Craving something hot and sweet in the Charing Cross Road the other day, I popped into one of those shiny, fast-food tea shops, and discovered that a Darjeeling tea-bag, a dunk-it-yourself cup of hot water and a dribble of milk now sets you back 85p. Was there really a time when a cup of Rosie Lee, brewed with tea-leaves in vast, judiciously warmed Brown Betty pots, cost quite a lot less than a quid? I was nursing these Old Git woes when I ran into Eric Moonman, the former MP for Basildon, who could go one better. Sitting at the Euston Plaza Hotel last week, appropriately in Eric's Bar, he ordered a cup of coffee. It cost £1.80. He asked the waiter for some milk - and got a second bill, for an extra 10p. Has it happened to you? If you've been charged extra for Use Of Cruets in a bistro, or Spoonful From Chutney Carousel in an Indian restaurant, let me know and we'll get a Private Member's Bill under way.

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
News
peopleGerman paper published pictures of 18-month-old daughter
Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicKate Bush set to re-enter album charts after first conerts in 35 years
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams' life story will be told in a biography written by a New York Times reporter
arts + ents
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
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

Merger and Acquisition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis