Click to follow
The Independent Online
Camelot gets streetwise

Hundreds of French people are reportedly coming over to buy National Lottery tickets. What, I wonder, do they make of the name of the company that runs our lottery? Camelot turns out to be a French word. The dictionary translates it as "cheapjack, street hawker" and, rather churlishly, "news vendor". As a verb, "cameloter" is even more damning: it means "to deal in or manufacture cheap street goods."

As if this wasn't bad enough, I gather that any street hawkers or news vendors as may be working for our own beloved Camelot could end up acting as counsellors to jackpot winners. I am intrigued to discover that Camelot's "winner advisers", who offer a free counselling service, are not trained professionals at all. A Camelot spokeswoman tells me that the three advisers have no qualifications in counselling - but, she adds reassuringly, they have attended the "university of life" and were "picked because of their people skills".

So what wise and soothing words should an instant millionaire expect to hear? There seems to be confusion within Camelot about this. One spokeswoman tells me that winner advisers recommend Camelot's sole UK banker, the Royal Bank of Scotland, to winners who do not have a bank account. Later, a different spokeswoman tells me: "We don't encourage winners to bank with the Royal Bank of Scotland."

Special's off

One of the long-suffering Maxwell lawyers finally lost his cool on Wednesday when he arrived at the law courts, only to discover the neighbouring restaurant, Corts, displaying the sign "Maxwell special - pounds 11.95."

The joke, apparently, was directed against the slow speed of the trial. "The Maxwell special was our set lunch," explains the manager. "It was an express lunch, which we thought faintly ironic, given the pace of proceedings." (The trial lasted 121 days; the jury has been out for three).

The lawyer, however, found nothing even faintly ironic about the situation. He nipped into a shop and bought a disposable camera, which he clicked furiously at the sign. Then he went to see the manager. "The Maxwell brothers would like you to remove this tasteless sign," he demanded. The manager has now complied, making it the first set lunch ever to be sub judice.

Di's diary

The Princess of Wales is serious in her determination to keep out of the public eye, lead her own life and visit the sick and ailing. Next week, she is taking lunch at the offices of the London Evening Standard. At the table will be not one but two diarists, an editor and a couple more scribes. Just the sort of private, discreet occasion for a girl who wants to be alone.

Queen Nicole

Britain is particularly blessed with accomplished classical actresses who have film experience: Helen Mirren, Fiona Shaw, Juliet Stevenson, and many more. So who is being sought to play Elizabeth I in a new big budget screen biopic? The Australian Hollywood starlet Nicole Kidman. There's type casting - and to add insult to injury, the film is being made by Working Title, a British company.

Barbs fly

Is pre-election vicious wit already rearing its head? At a breakfast for captains of industry, John Major gave an overview of the Shadow Cabinet, adding, in well-rehearsed style: "I've overlooked John Prescott. That's probably the only thing Tony Blair and I have in common."

Not a bad effort. But Eagle Eye expects the jokes to become considerably more vicious as the year goes on, and will be monitoring the inter-party sniping for further occasions when Oscar Wilde meets Quentin Tarantino.

Baring all

In its increasingly desperate bid for cash and survival the Royal Opera House has managed to enrage one of its own producers. It has just released this flyer advertising next week's new run of Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage. As you can see, it shows a naked man and woman looking out over a cornfield.

When the opera's producer, Graham Vick, saw the image during rehearsal, eye-witnesses say he went berserk and unsuccessfully demanded its withdrawal. Any suggestion that the poster might veer towards the pornographic is bewildering to Keith Cooper, the ROH's marketing director. "Two bare bottoms," he told me definitively, "is hardly nudity."

Eagle Eye