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Daniel gets real (again)

There's acting, there's method acting and there's Daniel Day-Lewis. Having chained himself to a wall to prepare for the part of one of the Guildford Four and run around with no clothes on to read himself into The Last of the Mohicans, I am glad to hear that Day-Lewis's research technique shows no signs of flagging, though this time it has taken a rather puzzling turn.

The crew currently filming Arthur Miller's The Crucible off the coast of Massachusetts have found that Day-Lewis, playing the farmer, John Proctor, has insisted on building sets with them. Apparently under the impression that 17th-century New England farmers spent all their time in frenzied woodworking, so far he has helped to construct a dozen clapboard houses, a tavern and an outhouse.

Having mastered Proctor'scarpentry skills, Day-Lewis turned his attention to understanding, feeling and experiencing his personal circumstances. The actor turned down the lavish accommodation offered him by the producers, and is living in a spartan house on a rural road with only essential facilities. Those familiar with the play will know that Proctor is hanged at its climax - so far Day-Lewis has decided to use conventional acting skills in this scene.

The obsession with method does not seem to have rubbed off on his co- star Winona Ryder, who plays his wife, Elizabeth Proctor. She has rented sumptuous $6,000 a month digs.

Good buy

Was Goodbye To All That, the memoirs of the Labour leadership contender Bryan Gould, a prophetic title? It was only published by Macmillan last year, but yesterday I discovered it in Books Etc in Oxford Street - reduced from pounds 16.99 to pounds 3.99. Cheaper, alas, than most paperbacks ...

Garden looks far from rosy

Poor Jeremy Isaacs (I hear he does not like the adjective beleaguered) will not have long to recover from the mauling suffered by the Royal Opera House on last night's fly-on-the-wall BBC documentary. Tonight the ROH chief faces a further savaging at the hands of the classical music promoter and opera impresario Raymond Gubbay. They will be on opposite sides at an Oxford Union debate on the National Lottery's propensity for doling out jackpots to elitist institutions.

Gubbay is virtually the only member of the arts establishment prepared to go public about waste, extravagance and restrictive practices in the arts. He tells me he will pull no punches at the debate tonight. "Certainly, there are restrictive practices at the opera house. And it seems to me incredible that while schoolchildren are going without books, the Royal Opera House is moaning, yes moaning, about getting nearly pounds 20m a year and a pounds 78m handout from the lottery, and it is still thrashing around with no definite plans about which building it will be in in 18 months' time."

It sounds as if it could be a fiery evening. Gubbay is himself staging an opera next month, La Boheme. He has decided to put it on at the Royal Albert Hall. In the circumstances, that may be a diplomatic move.

Sitting target

Having humbled the adversary Portillo at the battle of Admiralty Arch, the Royal Navy top brass have an even trickier problem to solve. Were Nelson's loos square or round? No one in authority seems to know the answer.

The Navy is working away to get HMS Victory shipshape for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar - coming up in 2005 (put it in your diary). Even Nelson's uniform and pipe will be laid out in his cabin as they were on the eve of battle. But when it comes to the appearance of the lavatories they are at a loss.

"Endless books and diaries have been consulted, but to no avail," says an insider. Meanwhile, they are opting for the round shape. "We have decided," says a senior admiral, "to take a gamble."

Finger on the pulse

I see the Daily Telegraph is still having trouble telling the difference between dead and alive. Barely a month ago the paper precipitately published the obituary of Lord Colyton, still at that point very much alive. And yesterday Paul Johnson was published on the letters page apologising to Lord Sieff, whom he had written off as "the late Lord Sieff". "I hasten to reassure Marcus Sieff's countless friends that he is still very much with us. I apologise to him and to Lady Sieff for this lamentable slip." To make matters worse, in his original article Johnson described Lord Sieff as a friend of his. Johnson blames "an inexplicable confusion of thought" for his error, a goodly phrase which sounds so much better than some of the alternatives that spring to mind.