Diary

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The Independent Online
Office workers who have successfully campaigned for no-smoking workplaces, beware! We are about to be threatened by passive mousing. The nostril-boggling idea is to give mousemats - the foam-backed plastic mat on which a computer "mouse" rests - their own distinctive fragrances. The Woking-based company Bourne, Europe's largest promotional product firm, is about to launch no fewer than 3,000 different mousemat fragrances, and will custom-produce other smells on request. The fragrance is released when you wheel the mouse about, which also helpfully and pungently informs the boss you're working.

The most popular fragrances, already in use on the Continent apparently, are lemon, apple, coconut and something called "Wall Street", which smells of money. So there it is: the hi-tech office of tomorrow will be awash with the scent of fruit and used fivers. Except at my work station. I have requested a mousemat with ageing skunk, so the bosses will give my desk a wide berth.

I am no great authority on what excites adolescent girls. Truth to tell, I was no great authority when I was an adolescent boy. But the novelist AS Byatt is. She has been one herself, and, anyway, female novelists know about these things. Miss Byatt is taking part in the BBC's Keats season, reappraising an ode or two. She told me over an unlikely breakfast discussion that for all Keats being the great romantic poet, adolescent girls tend not to like him because they are rather afraid of him, "all that blood and sweat and liquid, it's frightening for them''.

So, who are the literary figures that young girls dream about today? Inevitably, AS Byatt tells me, Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, with his smouldering passion, mysterious past and bi-weekly television exposure, remains at pole position. The similarly smouldering Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre is not far behind.

In her own youth, she recalls, she was turned on by John Donne's "eroticism". My own small, unscientific survey of ABC1 women shows smouldering is still in fashion with Rochester, Darcy and Heathcliff maintaining their pulling power. None of my respondents shared AS Byatt's cerebral lusting after Donne. But a few, surprisingly, had a thing for Holden Caulfield, the tormented, inexperienced teenage hero of The Catcher In The Rye. All very confusing. The one unifying factor was that not a single literary figure from the past 40 years tickles a young girl's fancy.

The only advice I can proffer to adolescent girls is never have an affair with a rakish young actor. They tend to get famous, get knighted and write an autobiography. Sir Robert Stephens's decision belatedly to tell all must be alarming some notable middle-aged ladies.

I have always thought it rather unfair that there is no legal redress to prevent one's extra-curricular indiscretions being recorded in another's memoirs. So I was prepared to feel sorry for Lady Antonia Fraser, who features as one of Sir Robert Stephens's romances in his soon-to-be-published book. But my sympathy is tempered by Lady Antonia's reported response to Stephens 20 years ago when he asked her if she wasn't taking a risk, her then husband being a Conservative MP. Don't worry, she told him revealingly, the papers never print anything about the wives and families of members of the House of Commons. Suddenly, 1975 seems light years away.

Raymond Gubbay, the classical music promoter, is refreshingly unafraid of cocking a snook at his colleagues in the arts. He is advertising his production of La Boheme at the Royal Albert Hall next February, with its cut-price tickets, by saying: "You don't need to have three tenners."

The jibe at the pounds 350 top prices for next year's Three Tenors concert at Wembley did not amuse Gubbay's sponsors for La Boheme, the Daily Telegraph. Their marketing chiefs told him they thought it less than witty and that it should not be repeated. How po-faced of them. The Daily Telegraph, incidentally, is sponsoring one other musical event next year: The Three Tenors at Wembley.

Paul Burger, chairman of Sony Music UK, is the new man in charge of the Brits pop music awards. For next year's competition Mr Burger has introduced a new rule. The media will not be supplied with a list of the winners before the event, but will have to wait until the awards are presented during the evening. This apparently will "add to the suspense and excitement of the show". Quite how a few journalists knowing the results a few hours in advance detracts from the excitement, I'm not sure. But I wonder whether Mr Burger understands what not giving advance results to the media means. The event will miss at least two editions of most national newspapers, so people in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of England will read no report of the show at all. A brilliant way for the music industry to publicise itself.

A word in the ear of the Home Secretary, Michael Howard. In his dispute with Derek Lewis, the man he sacked as head of the prison service, Mr Lewis is represented by the civil service First Division Association, and Mr Howard by the Treasury Solicitor. And who represents the Treasury Solicitor? None other than the First Division Association. The permutations would have delighted Sir Humphrey.

The new and last album from Queen is released next month. I had a sneak preview this week and found that far from being a marketing ploy, it is extremely good, with Freddie Mercury in passionate and hearty voice on tracks recorded just weeks before his death from Aids.

Queen's manager, Jim Beach, recalls that Mercury had deteriorated physically and on many days was too weak to get to the recording studio. Indeed, the other members of the band would wait around in Montreux where Mercury was living, never knowing from day to day whether he would have the energy to make an appearance.

But his voice remained as strong as it ever was right until the end. It must have been a strange sight: a dying man, physically destroyed, belting out 11 full-throated rock songs. The result is a moving and worthy legacy.

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