"Madame Chirac was furious when, in the run-up to the elections, all the French couture houses invited Madame Balladur to their fashion shows, because they expected Edouard Balladur to win the elections. So when Chirac won she knew exactly how to get her revenge," explained a French grand dame excitedly. I called Valentino's office in Rome for corroboration. "I haven't heard that," said a spokeswoman, "but it was thumbs up for the Italians, wasn't it?"
Last week I popped into a top London designer's to pick up my own going-away outfit for my wedding. But instead of being welcomed by hordes of assistants tripping over themselves to serve me (which I think I should expect for an outfit costing more than pounds 500), I was met by the horrifying sight of an American NBC film crew and Mona Bauwens, the socialite Arab heiress.
The TV script seemed to go as follows: Ms Bauwens, dressed in jeans and a doe-eyed expression, asks the designer if she can go to the Derby dressed as she is. The answer, inevitably, is no, so she twirls in and out of the changing-room, donning frocks and hats faster than most people blink.
Not a hard plot to get to grips with. But Ms Bauwens, who came to public notice when she invited David Mellor on holiday, evidently needed her utmost powers of concentration, and demanded silence while she performed. Nobody in the shop apologised to the other customers while all this was going on. I nearly stormed out in disgust.
Not that I hold Ms Bauwens entirely to blame; the shop should have admitted her and her film crew only after hours. But then they probably looked at their appointments list for the day and, seeing the name Vicky Ward at 4.30pm, reasoned that it was better to upset her session than that of Ivana Trump or the Princess of Wales. Humph.
Partying (with Ivana, incidentally) at London's Reform Club, I chanced upon Professor Roger Scruton in deep discussion with the playwright Tom Stoppard, no doubt providing the thesp with fodder for the inevitable "academic" that pops up in all of his plays. But Scruton is not entirely Stoppardian in character. Occasionally he does have his feet in the real world, most particularly between 8pm and 10pm on Wednesday nights. This, during the Moral Maze season (a new Radio 4 series begins 5 July), is when he and the other cast members dine out to co-ordinate their disagreement on the subjects up for discussion on air the next morning. "In fact," says Scruton, "we scarcely ever think identically, although sometimes I do agree with Janet Daley ... [pause] ... I never agree with Edward Pearce."
So if 9am is too early for you to tune in, you could always pop along to the weekly Wednesday rehearsal at Monte Bellos in Great Portland Street. And if the conversation isn't up to it, the spaghetti carbonara (circa pounds 4.50 as a main course) I'm assured, is quite excellent.
Shortly after spotting Roger Scruton I was introduced to Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, and - I can't think why - the subject of weddings came up. Mr Lilley does not know our best man, but his concern immediately focused on the welfare of this minor player in my imminent big day.
As it happens, my best man is a diamond dealer who was extremely useful at the ring-procurement stage but has subsequently proved less efficient. (I do understand the problem - he is always off in some godforsaken hole on the other side of the world haggling about the price of "rough and smooth").
Lilley was most sympathetic: "I've not been a best man very often, but it's an unenviable task," he said. "One of the few times I did it, the task of telling dirty stories was made somewhat difficult by the fact that the groom was a priest, and half the guests were ecclesiastics." He eventually settled for a two-sentence speech: "We were all very disappointed when X said she was getting married, and I was very also disappointed when Y said he was getting married. You see, I'd rather hoped he would marry me." Howls of laughter. Kind advice, but I'm not sure it would work in our case, since we only have one cleric coming.
This diary's whinge of the week last week was directed at BR and BA; this week it's the NHS. A friend's son has a verruca, so his GP has referred him to an NHS "verruca specialist". The boy has just received his date for an appointment with the specialist: 14 November. By which time, his father joked tastelessly, his whole foot is likely to be a verruca.
I was admonished by a switchboard operator at the BBC's Broadcasting House headquarters for eating in her ear down the phone. "Excuse me," she said in an Australian accent, "would you mind not munching like that - it's most unpleasant." Appalled at my lapse in manners, I apologised profusely (omitting, of course, to tell her that I'd been queuing in a hospital casualty room for hours, had had no lunch and was now on deadline, which was why I was gulping down my food), only to hear, seconds later, "Bugger!" down the line. She went on, "... I can't find the number you want." And then, "What was it you wanted ... The Archers ... that's a programme, is it?"
I have been under a misapprehension about the knighthood ceremony. I had thought that the Queen was meant to drop the sword on the shoulders of the newly honoured; but at the launch of Baroness Thatcher's memoirs, The Path to Power, I gathered that this is not always so. A jovial man pumped my hand in greeting. "Sir William Shelton," he announced with great emphasis on the "Sir". Pause, as he gave a little wave with his hand. "Knighted," with emotion in his voice and hand on heart, "by Maggie."Reuse content