One colleague who will not be attending the launch party (dress: flak jacket; drinks: Molotov cocktails; carriages: armoured) is Tom Carver, BBC TV's defence correspondent. A veteran of the world's minefields, Carver has spent much of the year in Bosnia, where he has shown an apparently charmed ability to report from the cross-fire without coming to any harm. But this weekend his luck in foreign fields finally ran out: he will be sending his apologies to Bell from a Spanish hospital bed.
Carver was not injured in the line of duty, however. Reinforcing the view that there is no better metaphor for war than football, he was injured during a tour to Barcelona by the Bill Shankly Memorial XI, his old university team. Eyewitnesses report that, in one game, Carver became caught up in a tussle for the ball involving a Spanish opponent and two of his team- mates. After some Fashanu-style use of the elbow - it is not clear by whom - Carver went down as if under sniper fire.
"We're demanding a UN inquiry," said a member of the touring party. "The point is, one of his own team might have been responsible. It could have been friendly fire. Whoever did it, after he got hit, Carver rolled around on the turf, screaming." As you would with a broken rib and deflated lung. Carver was taken to a nearby hospital, where he will remain until Saturday.
The match, incidentally, was immediately abandoned as a mark of respect for the player. Which, according to my eyewitnesses, "was just as well. We were getting stuffed and it was mainly Carver's fault. He kept on giving the ball away."
A footballer more capable of looking after himself will return to the national consciousness this weekend: on Sunday, Eric Cantona's nine-month ban for taking a diversion on his way to the Selhurst Park dressing room via the chest of a Crystal Palace supporter finally ends. With only five days to go until VE (Victory for Eric) Day, Manchester is awash with feverish sightings of the great man, most of which centre on the hotel where he is now living, away from all pressure, in order to concentrate his mind on the task ahead. Last week, however, he tore himself from his monk-like preparation to take a busman's holiday and go to a match. He was spotted on the touchline intently studying a game featuring his son, Raphael, turning out for his prep school team.
"Raphael looked pretty useful," said the parent of an opposition player. "Strolling around, spraying perceptive little passes about, much better than the other kids." And Eric, he added, was very self-contained, just standing there watching, keeping his counsel and apparently not noticing that everyone had given up on the game and was staring at him. Later, while Mrs Cantona drove her son away in a Mercedes sports car, Eric removed his baseball cap, put on a minimalist crash helmet and returned to his hotel aboard a Harley-Davidson the size of a small lorry.
"He looked just like any other parent," said my source (what do they drive their kids to school in in Manchester?). "Very calm and dignified. Even so, no one mentioned York City."
Intriguing news for the channel's several dozen subscribers, that neo- Reithian former Sun man Kelvin MacKenzie has been revealing his vision for the future of the cable television operation Live TV. You may remember that, prior to its launch, MacKenzie told us what the channel wouldn't be: "Bosnia it ain't."
Which proved to be not strictly accurate, as the first couple of months of the organisation's life were taken up with an internecine feud that resulted in the departure of Janet Street-Porter, Live's founding mother. Under MacKenzie's direction, all memory of her has now been ethnically cleansed from the channel's HQ: floor coverings have been changed and lamps put into her old office ("she didn't have them," newly arrived Kelvinites joke to anyone within earshot, "because she never worked after six o'clock.")
And now he has control, MacKenzie has been explaining what the channel will be.
"Girls with big tits," he told staff last week. "Then sport."
What's the subscription hotline number again?
Should his operation reach such a dizzy age, MacKenzie would be advised to take note from the Mail on Sunday's "You" magazine how not to throw a first birthday party. Dee Nolan, the organ's editor, decided to throw a bash to mark 12 months since a major facelift. Everyone important - advertisers, circulation executives, the bloke who signs the cheques - was sent an invitation. But for some unaccountable reason, none of the editorial staff, whose 14-hour-a-day labours have contributed (significantly, they felt) to the magazine's success, received a stiffie. Depressed at missing out on the opportunity to chat up telesales staff while sipping beakers of warm white wine, the staff demanded an inquiry: a Nolan commission, as it were. On being informed of her mistake, Ms Nolan immediately relented and said of course the staff were welcome, but on two conditions. They weren't allowed to get drunk and weren't allowed to stand in a corner talking to each other. What kind of a celebration is that?
You may have noticed the British press's urge to begin every feature article with the word "forget". This paper is occasionally guilty of the offence, but at the Sunday Times's "Style" section, it appears to be a house rule. Every week readers are invited into collective amnesia, as instructions are issued to "forget aerobics", "forget the Wonderbra" or, last week, to "forget Jemima Goldsmith's wedding". Now even film companies are at it: posters are appearing everywhere to promote Billy Crystal's new film demanding that we "Forget Paris". And what then? Remember Basingstoke?
But my favourite use of this demand for memory loss was in the Evening Standard's fashion pages."Forget beige," read the caption beneath a photo of a model in an unlikely outfit. "Brown is this year's navy."
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