Diary

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The Independent Online
"Shock jocks" aren't to be found only on Talk Radio UK, it seems. Or so the writer Charles Jennings discovered when he agreed to chat on BBC Radio Leeds last Sunday, to plug his book Up North, in whose pages he takes several swipes at the loveliness of virtually anywhere in England north of Potters Bar. The show was hosted by one Peter Levy - presumably not the Jesuit poet who's married to Cyril Connolly's widow - who invited along Austin Mitchell, the ay-ooping northern MP for Great Grimbsy and quondam broadcaster.

Responding with predictable fury to Jennings's droll views of their respective home towns (Grimsby, he had opined, "is full of carpet warehouses"), Levy and Jennings began to abuse the hapless writer in decreasingly humorous ways. "Let's go down there," Mitchell said eventually, "and kick him in the balls." "It's time someone told him," agreed Levy, "to bugger off." "What's it like," they chorused, "being a dork?" And what was it like? "It was like being beaten up in the playground by a couple of northern gits," replied the unabashed (if decidedly bashed) Jennings. His next book is a swingeing attack on "aristocrats, Sloanes and people who shop at Harvey Nichols". I look forward to the interview on Radio Posh.

Picture the scene. You are Brian Sewell, pompadoured, vowel-strangling, celebrated (and, occasionally, vilified) art critic of the London Evening Standard. You return, last week, from a spell in hospital to file your exciting thoughts on, say, the Turner Prize, only to find that your place in the Thursday arts section has been taken by a critic you've never heard of, writing a glowing report on the work of a sculptor, William Turnbull, whom you find spectacularly free of merit. You wonder what she/it is doing sneaking into your slot during your not-very-protracted absence. And I'm afraid you will go on wondering, Brian, until I point out the spooky fact that at least two of the Standard's Christmas parties are scheduled to be held at the Serpentine Gallery, where the work of Mr Turnbull is currently on display. Only a hardened cynic would suggest there's any connection between these two facts, but there it is.

Richard Jobson, ex-Skids singer turned besuited media mogul, found himself in a bit of a cross-cultural barney this week. Delighted by the acidulous showbiz writings of Joe Queenan, a bitchy New Yorker with a wrong-way baseball cap and a bilious attitude to the rich and famous (his long-standing feud with Barbra Streisand has resulted in two court actions so far), Jobson's film production company, Rebus, decided to dramatise one of the articles in Mr Q's book, If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be In Trouble, in which the author fantasises about spending a day as Mickey Rourke, the pugnacious actor with the fascination for New York lowlife. It was such a success, they decided to make it a trilogy, with Queenan also spending a day impersonating Hugh Grant and Keanu Reeves.

Part of the Hugh Grant programme involved a trip to a south London pub, where Queenan/Grant is filmed meeting real British people rather than the stammering charmers with which Hollywood believes this country is populated. The idea was that Queenan should be seen lecturing a crowd of jolly regulars about the need for gentlemanly behaviour. They miscalculated slightly, though, in choosing a pub in the Old Kent Road more known for villainy than Cockney nostalgia. As Queenan stood on the bar and launched into his humorous harangue ("All that separates the likes of you from the likes of me is one word: decency"), a hundred eyes like Stanley knives turned on the hapless Yank. Tragically, Jobson, Queenan and Co had stumbled upon an ad hoc convention of 50 Millwall supporters plotting their next act of ultra-violence. As Queenan was bustled from the bar, only the presence of television cameras came between him and instant evisceration.

Things have gone completely screwy in the on-off saga of the Reed poets. Earlier this year, all the poets publishing new books under the Sinclair- Stevenson imprint received a letter from the Reed Group bosses saying, plaintively, "We have no expertise in this area of publishing", and saying they weren't going to touch any more confounded verse. They also offered to pay the poets their advances in full. As anyone who has ever dealt with poets could have predicted, a war of attrition broke out. It's lasted all year. Some poets have taken the Reed Group to court. Some have demanded to be published, whether the company likes it or not. They have all banded together in a grumbling freemasonry - Anthony Thwaite, Jon Silkin, Alan Brownjohn, Fiona Pitt-Kethley, Michael Glover, William Scammell, Martyn Crucefix - and made the Reed Group's life hell. At least that's what I gather from the news that the group's legal adviser has just written a letter to the aggrieved Parnassians offering pounds 500 to each of the authors "by way of resolution ... in settlement of the whole matter". In other words, "Here's some cash, you mutinous dogs. Now will you shut the **** up?".

Anyone who couldn't score a seat at the Vogue Christmas party last night could settle for a good second-best at the Avenue, the fantastically swish new bar 'n' restaurant in St James's that launched itself on a tidal wave of Dom Perignon and A-list celebs. An ex-Warburg moneybags called Christopher Bodker, two of his friends and 60 shareholders are collectively responsible for this desperately glam establishment, which hopes, the accompanying PR stuff tells me, "to bring the style and energy of New York to London". Glancing at the pedigree of its contributing foodies, designers and so forth, it's a sure-fire success: I mean, the chef's from Mezzo, the photographic prints are by Norman Parkinson, the waitresses' uniforms are by Nicole Farhi, the paintings are by Estelle Thompson, the furniture's by John Coleman, the development consultant's David Mellor, the video wall is by ...

Hang on a tick. Can that be the David Mellor, MP, the toothy philanderer with the fashion sense of Quasimodo? Yup, that'll be him. Seems an obvious choice to me. If you need a word of advice about how best to bring Manhattan high style to boring, tacky old London, he's just the man to give you one.

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