Diary

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The Independent Online
John Major's everyday life may be fraught with irritations - Scottish local elections, impudent speculation about his and Norma's sex life - but one recent experience was so enjoyable that he has vowed to repeat it. I am talking about the Prime Minister's debut journey on Concorde en route to Washington for a spot of special relationship counselling. So happy was the Prime Minister that he has chosen Concorde for all future long-haul flights. But before carping opposition politicians point the finger at this undoubted perk - Concorde costs £5,000-£6,000 return per person - may I assure them that the taxpayer in economy class is not subsidising Mr Major's free fluffy slippers, champagne and ear plugs. By chartering Concorde privately and charging journalists for their seats, Downing Street is believed to have made a small profit. But the press corps has been banned from the PM's next short-haul jaunt - when he visits Paris, Berlin and Moscow for the VE Day commemorations. Downing Street says sniffily: "The Prime Minister is not obliged to take journalists wherever he goes." But the lobby suspects it is being prevented from intruding into private grief four days after the local elections.

Not everyone is over the moon about EMI's new £2m publishing deal with Blur, the pop group it is now fashionable - even compulsory - to rave about. Justine Frischmann, the singer girlfriend of Blur's lead vocalist, Damon Albarn, fears for her beau's safety. "He's never had really big money before," she revealed last week: "He's already saying he wants to buy a car. But he can barely ride a scooter, let alone drive."

To the Imperial War Museum for the launch of veteran film actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr's literary debut, A Hell of A War. The event was not quite an unadulterated success. Some noses were severely put out of joint by Fairbanks's choice of phrase when autographing his books. To the women he generally wrote "to my old friend ...", which, on the whole, he got away with. But to some men he wrote "to my old old friend", which was slightly alarming to guests younger than the sprightly 85-year-old Fairbanks. And to others he wrote "to my old, old, old friend ..." "Help," said a horrified middle-aged literary type afterwards, wringing his hands. "Do I really look that bad?"

He is neither black nor female but, undaunted nevertheless, the Welsh are lobbying for the Rev RS Thomas, the 82-year-old poet, to win next year's Nobel Prize for literature. The campaign has been launched by the New Welsh Review, a magazine that appears quarterly and has an annual subsidy of £29,950 from the Welsh Arts Council. "We're only just beginning the proceedings," says a spokesman from the council, "but we're putting together the best possible combination of nominating bodies." Those bodies need to include a learned institution, university professors of literature or languages, presidents of authors' organisations or Nobel laureates in literature. The key objective, however, is to help form an appropriate climate of opinion.

And in Thomas's case opinion is somewhat mixed on account of his staunch Welsh nationalism - in the Eighties he gave verbal support to an extremist group of arsonists intent on protecting the Welsh language. He is unusual in being a great champion of the Welsh language who writes poetry in English - although his prose is always Celtically Correct in Welsh. His political ardour could be held against him - although those carefully monitoring the choices of the Nobel committee in Sweden say that the articulated defence of small countries and small cultures is viewed as extremely politically correct. "His values," says the Welsh Arts Council without qualms, "are definitely humanistic."

A partner in a leading firm of London solicitors has discovered the ultimate tool for foxing potential burglars: a laundry bag. He was carrying a sack of clean shirts from his car to his north London flat at the weekend when a ne'er-do-well threatened him with a piece of broken glass, followed him into his flat and tied him up. The crook duly went round the flat collecting up valuables. He put them into his own sack, which at one stage he put down near the laundry bag. You may guess the poetic justice of what happened next ... after all his gruesome efforts, all the burglar made off with was a bag containing nine crisply ironed shirts.

In yesterday's Independent Nicola Foulston, 27-year-old heiress and owner of Brands Hatch motor-racing circuit, admitted that she was "a bad driver". This is something of an understatement. Those who know Ms Foulston well say she has recently admitted that she is so disastrous behind the wheel that she is taking lessons on how to get out of a spin, because she is convinced she is shortly going to have one. (We're talking B roads here, not the race track.) Still, if she fails to get the hang of road vehicles, all is not lost. Ms Foulston is a shrewd operator: in March last year she married her flying instructor.

Perhaps I can throw some light on the goings on at the Chilean Embassy - where the ambassador, Hernan Errazuriz, seems to be making a habit of making hugely generous offers, then withdrawing them. First, he delighted Index on Censorship, the free-speech lobby group, when he offered to provide the wine for the party after the premire of Roman Polanski's film version of Ariel Dorfman's play Death and the Maiden, scheduled for next Wednesday at the Curzon, Mayfair. What better way of underlining the new Chile's distance from the bad old days of torture and repression recalled in the film, thought the folks at Index, until the offer was suddenly cancelled, leaving guests such as the film's star, Sigourney Weaver, with the prospect of washing down Downing Street caterer Claire Latimer's food with fizzy water. Mystified, I called the embassy for an explanation and was charmed to be invited to lunch with the ambassador and Dorfman - but my hopes of gargling excellent Chilean red were dashed when an embassy minion rang to call that off as well. Seor Errazuriz says he never promised to provide the wine for the party, saying: "It was a complete misunderstanding." (Index finds this a little hard to swallow.) The cancelled lunch, on the other hand, is easier to explain. "A disaster has occurred," a spokeswoman tells me. "The cook has suddenly left." Perhaps they should call in Ms Latimer.

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