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Balla revealed - strictly entre nu

ACROSS the Channel, they're only just starting to realise what a spectacle of grandeur they are missing out on since the electorate rejected former prime minister Edouard Balladur as a presidential candidate earlier this year.

The lordly Edouard, it turns out, refuses to consider sleep unless enveloped in silk sheets, once spent pounds 200,000 of public funds on new carpets for his office, and has the unusual habit of padding around naked in front of his staff. These revelations are made in a book by Bernard Brigouleix, one of Balladur's press team when he was premier.

"Edouard Balladur behaves, in private, a little in the manner of a noble of bygone days with his people; he may well emerge from his bathtub, in front of a young and highly embarrassed member of staff, in the costume worn, according to legend, by Archimedes when he discovered the principle that has since born his name," writes the sly Brigouleix.

The book goes on to describe how the former PM insisted on having his clothes folded a l'anglaise - with the linings turned out - (no one ever told me about this), and describes the frantic search for silk, rather than linen, sheets when Balla was forced to stay at the prime ministerial residence one night during some political crisis. Not to forget the panic of his staff at the entirely hypothetical danger that his shoes might be soiled by a cow when he visited an agricultural show.

The interesting thing about these revelations is that they come in the same week that Francois Mitterrand declared that his successor, Jacques Chirac, is in fact clinically insane and would become the world's laughing stock within a few months of taking office. Not exactly the broad Jeffersonian meadow you might hope for in French democracy: the voters last May, it now seems, had but a limited choice, between the stark naked and the stark staring mad.

Power's urge

WE SPENT some time last week musing over the following two news items. The first appeared in the Daily Mirror:

"Millions of Britons were glued to their TV screens as the OJ courtroom drama reached its gripping climax. . .

"Electricity consumption FELL drastically, the National Grid said, as people kept their low-current tellies ON - and kept their high power appliances like kettles and cookers OFF or down low.

"Grid spokesman Nick Kembrey said: 'At 6.13pm a drop of 1,200 to 1,300 megawatts was recorded - enough to power a large town or city.' "

The second item came from New York City :

"The verdict of the OJ Simpson case sent demand for electricity soaring [ie, SOARING, in Mirror-speak] as television sets were snapped on [ON] all over town.

"The demand increased from 7,156 to 7,249 megawatts at 1700 GMT" ConEd spokesman Horace Webb said.

Aha! we thought - a great truth about the difference between America and Britain suddenly flickers into shape. And it is. . . er. . . ah. . . well, what is it exactly?

A logical friend in New York tells us that all that has been demonstrated is (a) Americans by and large do not own electric kettles (Because of the Boston Tea Party? Discuss). And (b) Americans habitually have their lunch - a sandwich, for example, might be chosen - at the same time that the British are cooking their dinner.

Matinee idle

MEANWHILE, (bit risky this, in the glasshouses-and-stones sense) we note that while the rest of the world believes that OJ either killed or did not kill his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, the Guardian took the boldly original view in its first edition on Tuesday that the former football star was on trial for the murder of Ronald Colman.

You'll remember Ronald. "British romantic actor whose gentle manners, intelligence and good looks thrilled two generations", says our Cinema Companion. ("And my mum used to be in love with him," a senior colleague adds.)