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Darcy was in denial, OK?

Jane Austen, according to the movie magazine Premiere, is now seen in Hollywood as the 19th-century equivalent of Quentin Tarantino. Presumably, they envisage such magic moments as Darcy resplendent in sunglasses and zoot suit telling Elizabeth: "Your mother is lacking in wit. I shall with your permission waste the bitch."

Hollywood film-makers are, it seems, falling over each other to adapt the Austen oeuvre. The blonde American starlet Gwyneth Paltrow is soon to star as the brunette, English Emma, directed by Douglas McGrath, co- writer of the Woody Allen film Bullets Over Broadway.

McGrath offers a novel reasoning for Americans colonising Austen on film. "The people of Woody Allen and Jane Austen are not so far apart," he says. "They are all elite, comfortable people, socially conscious and representing the wit of the time rather than the action. You don't have to have read Jane Austen to understand the social habits. The story is all about life."

Emma as a Woody Allen film? Well, Mr Knightley is a lot older than Emma. He thought he had a lot to teach her, yet underneath he is a little unsure of himself. And the country dancing scenes could always be modified to a jazz quintet. But the McGrath film might yet hit a major snag. There is no record of Mr Knightley going into analysis.

Heroes only

A question. Who are "Saxon-Norman thugs"? Why, the Government, of course, according to the Four Weddings and a Funeral actor Kenneth Griffith, who will be in Cardiff tonight to address a Sinn Fein rally. "As a Welsh democrat I am going to Cardiff to state very firmly that Britain is entirely in the wrong and Sinn Fein is entirely in the right," he tells me earnestly.

Griffith, whose cameo in Four Weddings is in the cast list as "mad old man", has asked Gerry Adams in advance of tonight's meeting if he can join Sinn Fein. Adams told him: "You don't have to join. You are already a member of the Republican family."

As a director, Griffith claims "only to make films about heroes". His Sixties film Hang Out Your Brightest Colours, about the IRA's founding father, Michael Collins, was banned for 21 years. As well as Collins, his heroes' gallery includes the unlikely gathering of Thomas Paine, Nehru and Zola Budd.

That figures

Peter Bruinvels, the diminutive former MP for Leicester, who once notoriously volunteered to be the public hangman, has already shot himself in the foot in his new role as Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Wrekin.

Yesterday he delivered his 11th press release of the year, on the subject of local unemployment, which he said had fallen. "This latest drop in unemployment figures is good news for the people of Wrekin, employers and employees alike, for the county of Shropshire and for the country," he maintained on local radio.

Listeners at the Central Office of Information, however, were mystified. Unemployment figures for the Wrekin have actually gone up, no matter how many ways you slice the area up.

"The figures have risen from 3,622 in November to 3,654 now," a spokesman said yesterday. "We found what Bruinvels had to say most amusing."

The man himself sticks by his calculations. "I am not wrong," he maintained with supreme confidence.

Noakes poke

Shep, the trusted companion of John Noakes, the former Blue Peter presenter, may have barked his last some years back, but his master is suddenly active on all fronts. Not only has Noakes at the age of 62 recorded his first single, "Sheep Dip Disco", which features his tender rebuke to the late sheepdog, "Get down, Shep!" - he has also signed up for the Government and is fronting an advertising campaign for the DTI's "Smart" competition, which awards money to small businesses to help produce innovative product ideas.

Here, I have to tell him, he may have been fleeced. A DTI spokesman cheerily confided to me: "We paid John less than the going rate."

Page 31 girls

How to insult a girl without really trying: the Daily Express flagged on its front page yesterday: "Your Practical Guide to Plastic Surgery", page 31. Turn to page 31 and there is a full-page spread on Channel 4's The Girlie Show with a glamorous photograph of its three stars, one of whom is holding up her blouse to draw attention to her bosom.

This, I respectfully assume, is not the practical guide to plastic surgery, which in fact turns up elsewhere in the paper.

Can a girl sue because of a faulty cross-reference? Case law is silent on this.

Eagle Eye