Diary

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The Independent Online
Taking the dawg's name in vain

Politics, desertion, muckraking, and now courtroom drama - it may be a dog's life, but for the late President Mitterrand's black labrador, Baltique (below), it's never dull. This morning, France's favourite pooch finds herself back in the news - at the centre of a Parisian courtroom row, billed "Baltique vs Baltique".

Having tugged at French heartstrings when she followed her master's coffin from the church to the cemetery in January, Baltique was then very publically dumped by Mitterrand's widow.

Now, the poor dog is caught in a tussle between two publishers -each of which has published a book of salacious pseudo-reminiscences about the president's private life. Both books bear a picture of the cuddly hound on the cover - and both purport to be written by "Baltique".

In a fit of pique, the first publisher to poach Baltique's pawprint then announced it was suing the second - claiming copyright on the pseudonym. The case was due in court this morning - but a frantic 11th-hour negotiated settlement looks like keeping both books out of court, and still on sale.

Really, a dog can only take so much. The very suggestion that Baltique - man's best friend, after all -would sell her master's most intimate secrets to some grubby publisher is insult enough.

But then to have the publisher claim rights to her name, when they had taken it in vain anyway! Baltique, I am told, is most distressed. I think she should sue.

You're fired. Whoops, no you're not

The new editor Will Hutton may prove to be the golden boy to save the Observer's fortunes - but he's certainly going about it a funny way. One of his very first senior appointments, the managing editor, Danny John, has already distinguished himself by sacking several staff - then having to reinstate them promptly, in a farcical case of mistaken identities.

One respected features writer was startled to be called in by Mr John this week, told that, frankly, the boss "didn't rate him", and shown the door. Drowning his shocked sorrows in the local pub, he was even more startled when a blushing representative of the Guardian's editor burst in, hauled him out and marched him back to the office.

"There's been a bit of a cock-up, old boy," blustered the red-faced editor, cracking open the mini-bar. "Bit of a misunderstanding. So sorry - you're not fired at all." Good news for the hack in question - but not, of course, much reassurance for all the other staff now panicking that the axe was meant for them.

Is nothing sacred?

Chris Patten (right) may still be at the helm, and Hong Kong may not be due to return to the Chinese until next year. But I learn, with great sadness, that the last great bastions of British colonialism have already crumbled. This week, the list of goods and services by which the colony measures its inflation rate was published. It is an enlightening litany, and reveals much about Hong Kong's growing cosmopolitan lifestyle. "We have access to so many things," enthuses a government spokesman. "We have more choices." Sadly, in this bold new consumer world, it seems no one is choosing the finest features of a great British colonial heritage. Some 42 essential items no longer feature on the list - and they include gin, shrimp paste and ox tongue.

Railtrack, we love you

Railtrack staff must be terribly forgetful. How else can one explain the terse memo to employees in East Anglia, issued in response to Wednesday's less than flattering Channel 4 Dispatches portrayal?

"It is never pleasant to be pilloried in this way," huffs the memo, "but you know that we are a professional organisation of highly trained staff competently controlling the railway. It is worth remembering that." Of course it is. Next time I am stranded for hours in a great Railtrack cock- up, that's precisely - I'm sure - what I'll remember.

Island life

As bad luck, bad taste and bad timing go, a full-page travel ad in one of the colour supplements last Sunday took some beating. Under the headline "Tasmaniacs", it read: "This treasure island has far more to offer than the notorious Tasmanian Devil. Shame really it's all most people associate with the place."

Anything they can do, we Cannes do too

Proof, if one were needed, that the British film industry is back on its feet: we have finally mastered the gluttonous art of the full-on, Hollywood-inspired beano. This morning, the flawlessly fashionable Soho House, private watering hole for London's movie movers and shakers such as Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald (above), is packing up and shipping out to Cannes. For the duration of the film festival, owners, staff and members will enjoy the full benefits of their favourite club, relocated on a chartered motor yacht. "We thought," explains the manager, Matthew Hooberman, "we really shouldn't deny our members their usual service, just because they are away in Cannes." Oh, obviously. Such selflessness!

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