Diary

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The Independent Online
Kill me again, please

I'd thought that Judge Argyle, he of the Oz Trial and many subsequent controversies, had lost the power to shock. But a letter from His Honour to his local paper, The Newark Advertiser, proves me wrong.

Reminiscing about his late father, a distinguished solicitor, he mentions, en passant, that the old boy, who had a fear of being buried alive in his coffin, ordered his four sons to plunge a long, sharp knife into his dead body.

He says the recent case of the woman found alive in a hospital mortuary reminded him of his father's death in 1965. "He served through both world wars seeing a lot of action. A man not easily alarmed or frightened, he had a horror, based on his experience, of being buried alive. [He witnessed] the reopening of a coffin to reveal the torn nails and bloodstained fingers and the scratch marks on the wood inside; the fate of soldiers in trenches, overwhelmed by an avalanche of earth caused by heavy gunfire; the fate of Royal Navy and merchant navy crews in ships or submarines sent to the bottom.

"All these caused him to order his four sons, of whom I was the eldest, to plunge a long, sharp knife into his dead body..."

A request no dutiful son with a flourishing career at the Old Bailey could ignore. But, sadly for Judge Argyle, he was unable to follow his father's last wishes. The undertaker had nailed down the lid of the coffin.

Dark days

Good to see that the West End will soon be graced by two famous titles. Willis Hall's 1959 army-based play The Long And The Short And The Tall has just opened at the Brixton Shaw Theatre, and is to transfer to the West End. And Simon Callow is directing a new musical version of the French classic film Les Enfants Du Paradis at the Royal Shakespeare Company next week. The film ran for a dazzling three hours 40 minutes. Callow's expensive production is clocking up four-and-a-half hours at the first previews. One exhausted theatre-goer tells me that emerging into the dark, silent streets around the Barbican a few minutes before midnight, with the last train chugging away in the distance, was in itself a piece of Theatre of Menace.

Polite knock

It strikes me that the media's current fascination with a certain seven words - namely those allegedly said by the Princess of Wales to Tiggy Legge-Bourke - is misguided. What I would much rather know, if we're talking about Royal off-the-cuff remarks, is what Viscountess Linley, Princess Margaret's daughter-in-law said to Sandra Howard, the Home Secretary's wife when she crashed her Range Rover into Mrs Howard's Ford Scorpio the other day during a West End shopping trip.

It is quite clear from a witness's statement that cross words were exchanged. (Apparently Viscountess Linley even refused to issue Mrs Howard with her home address and surname (laughably, given the status of Mrs Howard's husband) "for security reasons". Neither did the ladies recognise each other. This reflects credit on both of them. Mrs Howard clearly doesn't bother to read Hello! and Viscountess Linley doesn't go to government sherry parties.

"My wife would never be rude," commented Viscount Linley afterwards. So how then do we think the conversation went? No doubt, "So sorry, that you crashed into me" from Mrs Howard and "So sorry to be such a nuisance" from Viscountess Linley.

Hair equality

New Labour, old Labour, they're all bald to me. At the Spitting Image's production studios the 22-year-old puppet co-ordinator on the programme was asked to fetch the puppet of Arthur Scargill from the storehouse. "I don't know what Arthur Scargill looks like," the fortunate young woman told producer Giles Pilbrow. "You can't miss him," retorted Pilbrow. "He's an old, balding left-wing Labour politician with a grubby grey suit - he's in the third-floor puppet room."

The puppet co-ordinator listened carefully. Alas, to no avail. When she returned she was carrying ... Neil Kinnock.

Ladies who lamb

No comment: Headline from a Department of Health press release: "Advice To Pregnant Women During Lambing."

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