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Beef, belief and kangaroo nibbles

In all the secular coverage of the BSE scare, it has been left to the humble Baptist Times to come up with a spiritual angle. Under a bold headline, "Beef and Belief", its editorial ponders the problem with proper Christian modesty. "There is little that a newspaper such as ours can add to the debate," it begins. Undaunted, it goes on and asks: "Is there a distinctively Christian contribution which can be made?"

There is indeed. "Abstaining from beef is one way Christians might wish to consider the traditional pre-Easter Lenten period of abstinence." Just tell all the angry farmers that you're very sorry, but you can't be blamed - religion strictly forbids that beefburger.

Just one minor drawback, though. Aren't you meant to give up something you'd actually like to eat?

And what to eat instead? There I can be of some assistance. The answer came at a reception at Australia House for costumes from the Australian ballet this week. Guests were nervily fingering the nibbles. Is it beef, they whispered? No, replied the cultural attache, proudly. It's kangaroo. It was. And we all forgot childhoods curled up with AA Milne and munched merrily.

`Our Tune' fades out

An era ends. An era of toe-curling, cringe-making gunge perhaps. But an era nevertheless. Simon Bates's "Our Tune", the mid-morning, how-we- met memory which moved from Radio 1 to Talk Radio. Sadly for toe-curlers, yesterday Bates and Talk Radio parted company, with a spokeswoman being none too diplomatic about "Our Tune" or its creator. She claimed it prompted 8 per cent of people to reach for the off button. "The public hated it," she said. "We had people ringing to complain every time we played a record, saying `You are supposed to be a talk station'." Bates's cosy style and half-hour interviews were not what was needed, she added.

Material there surely for one final "Our Tune". One can imagine the scene at the Talk Radio studios. Simon and spokeswoman glance at each other slyly; a furtive smile plays across spokeswoman's lips. Simon quivers and his spectacles mist up. "You're a turn-off," she whispers seductively in his ear. And so especially for you, Simon, from central London, The Beatles and "Hello Goodbye".

Your share of protest

Tony Blair will be pleased to see his vision of the stakeholder society has been seized on by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. The organisation is urging its supporters to attend the annual meeting of British Aerospace on 1 May to protest against its sale of Hawk Fighter planes to Indonesia. To encourage a good turn-out, the campaign is advertising free BAe shares in its latest newsletter.

Vive la pay-off

They say these things better in France. Christine Ockrent (right), the most important woman in the French media, resigned this week as director and editor-in-chief of L'Express, France's highest circulation weekly magazine, following les differences with the magazine's new owners. Ms Ockrent, who runs her own production company and hosts a political TV show, said in her farewell letter to staff that she was leaving "with head held high and a generous heart".

It was a fine French flourish. How many media moguls over here even possess generous hearts, let alone publicise them?

Mind you, Ms Ockrent can afford to have a generous heart. According to colleagues, she left L'Express with a pay-off which, like her head, was high.

Any abjections?

A misprint that Leeds West Conservative Association certainly didn't intend in the list of motions for the Conservative Central Council meeting at Harrogate this weekend. The case of the deportation of the Saudi dissident is, it boasts, "an abject lesson" to those who come to Britain to abuse our hospitality. Hard to know how to vote, really.

Mad cow jokes: No 1

I see BSE jokes are beginning to surface.

The first has two cows in a field. One says to the other: "Worrying, all this mad cow disease talk, isn't it?" "Doesn't bother me," comes the reply, "I'm a horse."

Readers who have better and sicker offerings ... my mailbag awaits.

Could Babe pig out with a Flufta?

It has not been a good week for Babe, Australia's unlikely screen star. First, pork sales began to soar alarmingly, as the British abandoned beef and turned to bacon. Then came crushing defeat at the Oscars. Emma Thompson may have been quaffing champagne, but Babe was left with pigswill (although his special effects team won Oscars, above).

Hope, however, is at hand. Lloyds Bank, sponsor of the forthcoming Baftas, has come up with a new award: the Flufta, dedicated to the public's favourite acting animal. And, I'm told, Babe is tipped for the title.

Competition for this prestigious accolade is stiff. Free Willy, the Andrex Puppy and Well'Ard, the EastEnders dog, are all in the running, and the ceremony will be hosted by Cancara, the Lloyds Bank black horse. In the finest British tradition of sentimental anthropomorphy, my excited source tells me: "Babe will have to keep his trotters crossed a little longer yet."

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