Diary: Work at Harrods, if you're French

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The Independent Online
I am a little surprised as I peruse the French newspaper Le Figaro to see a large advertisement placed by Harrods, advertising for management staff in various departments such as marketing, human resources, and other key strategic posts at the Knightsbridge store. Applicants, whose relocation costs will be paid by the store, must already have proved themselves by having worked in "un environnement dynamique."

Do the ranks of the British unemployed and the British "keen to change jobs" not include sufficient management whizz-kids with the requisite "dynamisme, reactivite et motivation", as the advert puts it? It also says that "notre president" (of Harrods, not France) Mr Al Fayed (above) and his international co-workers are far-seeing; "but the future is not only a vision; it is a reality."

But why does Mr Al Fayed, a vociferous patriot, seek staff in France for the most quintessentially British of stores? The Harrods public affairs director, Michael Cole, tells me: "We believe it is in the interests of this country to employ the best possible people, from all over the world. We employ in our workforce people from 54 sovereign states. The man who runs the food hall is a German. Mr Al Fayed has created a British institution of which we can all be proud." Mais oui.

Cellulite? Moi?

The Princes of Wales has in her time been accused of being paranoid, of attempting to scupper her husband's chances of acceding to the throne and of having an affair with a well-known British sportsman. To all these accusations she has maintained a dignified silence. This week she was "accused" of having a cellulite problem. No royal reticence on this one. The next morning her indignant rebuttal of the claim was published on the front page of the Daily Mirror. A princess's priorities ...

Luvvies in Lilliput

The excellent adaptation of Gulliver's Travels on Channel 4 over Easter was a celebration of family values, I see. The director, Charles Sturridge, cast his wife, Phoebe Nicholls, as the Empress of Lilliput (they met when he directed Brideshead Revisisted, in which she played Cordelia). Their eldest child, Thomas, played Gulliver's son Tom, and their toddlers Matilda and Arthur appeared as infant Lilliputians.

"It was an exploitative decision by me to use Thomas," Mr Sturridge tells Harpers & Queen with a delightfully luvvyish overstatement, "I knew I had a very difficult thing to achieve with that part, and I knew he could do it." As well as family Sturridge dominating the cast list, there should also have been a credit for Mr Sturridge's tutor at Oxford, Peter Bailey. When he was 18, Sturridge wrote an essay on "The Satire of Gulliver's Travels". Mr Bailey wrote on it: "A competent survey. May be of use to you later."

Save us from Rolf

I demand an organisation dedicated to saving classic rock music from cover versions. Playwrights and their estates can refuse to lease the rights to applicants they don't fancy. Film studios have rights over their productions. But no such safeguards exist when it comes to covering pop songs. And so, watch out later this month for Rolf Harris's very own version of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", with wobble board replacing Freddie Mercury's operatic cries of "scaramouch". Any more plans Rolf? "Strawberry Fields Forever" complete with didgeridoo perhaps?

Amphibious amour

Remember Simon Smith and his amazing dancing bear? This is Ken Livingstone's amazing dancing toad. The Brent East MP is one of a number of personalities who have created paintings or drawings to be auctioned for the wildlife charity Care For The Wild. The Liberal leader, Paddy Ashdown, has drawn a bison, to enhance his hardy outdoor image, presumably. But does Mr Livingstone's painting "Dancing Toad - Young at Heart" mean he has transferred his affections from the collection of newts he keeps in his London garden pond? "No," he tells me, "but newts are not as colourful as toads, and toads have more expressive faces." I sense there's a sonnet as well as a painting lurking in the Livingstone breast.

Winning ways

Great seduction techniques of our time: Michael Winner, film director, restaurant critic and charmer, tells the new edition of Take A Break magazine: "I tend to say `Come on, let's get a move on!' And they say, `I don't know you well enough,' and I say: `Well, I'm at my best now, but in a couple of weeks you'll hate me because I'll be going downhill.' " It's a wonder any girl can resist.

Eagle Eye

Cautionary tale for Taranteenies

Kiddies who want to have a peek at Quentin Tarantino's violent masterwork Pulp Fiction will be able to if the family's going to Italy for the summer holidays. Italy's Council of State has reversed the 18 rating given to the film, on the grounds that violent films can set a good example to young people if viewed in the proper context.

The council added that the movie's lazy, lingering depiction of heroin use could "alert audiences, even minors, to the dangerous effects of drugs". So there you are, bambini. Be warned: play with drugs and you'll only end up being seduced by Uma Thurman. It was a cautionary tale, after all.

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