The heart of the natter: BT wants men to make longer, more emotional phone calls, reports Hester Lacey

'WHY can't men be more like women?' asks one of the new newspaper ads in BT's latest campaign. How, exactly? By spending more time on the phone enjoying 'the simple joys of talking' says the blurb, tastefully deployed over two stark naked telephoners. But while he is standing up and getting straight to the point, she is cosily settled for a good long natter.

Letter: Essex man: not a Tory but a radical

Sir: I see that, now local and European elections are in the offing, John Major is courting the people of Essex in a vain attempt to win votes. Perhaps he is unaware that the media stereotypes of Essex man and woman are of fairly recent date. Essex's radical connections are much more long-standing.

Orpheus returns from twilight zone: European money helps restore Victorian house inspired by the ideas of William Morris. Oliver Gillie reports

ORPHEUS now stands proudly playing his lyre above the fireplace in the great parlour at Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton. For years the figure, sculpted in a plaster bas relief by Charles Kempe in the early 1890s, was covered with smoky grime, but this has now been washed away by the loving application of a mild detergent laced with a little ammonia.

DIVERSION / All in the mind's eye: Emma Forrest enters the realms of the Paradox Box, a collection of optical illusions. Is it more than just a bag of tricks?

All mind games, other than those conducted with people, make me want to cry. I hate playing cards, I loathe chess and I detest Scrabble for turning the English language into a terrifying equation. I'm just glad I've never been confined to bed long enough to have to fill in a crossword. At junior school we learnt something called verbal reasoning, alleged by the teachers to be a creative subject, but they didn't fool me. It consisted of puzzles and jigsaws and was just another form of mind accountancy. And now that I'm attempting to condition my mind to A-levels, I've learnt that people are either 'left-brained' or 'right-brained' (good at either scientific, mathematical activities or artistic and imaginative). This often comforts me as I stomp on a game of dominoes.

Property: The new ruralists: More and more city-dwellers are escaping to the country. For the telecommuter freed by computer and fax or the William Morris-style good-lifer, the first step to realising the dream is to decide just what sort of country you really like. A new series by Caroline McGhie

THE URBAN strait-jacket is beginning to pinch. A leading research organisation recently reported that nearly one in three people in Britain would like to move house and that two- thirds of these wishful thinkers would like to move to the country. This means that about 13 million people have itchy feet, and nearly nine million of them want their next move to give them cowpats and cowslips along the way.

Heaven was a place called Biba: For schoolgirls and cover girls, clothes at a certain shop in Kensington were to die for, and still are, says Roger Tredre

WHY is it that everyone who bought clothes from a shop that shut in 1975 has kept them hanging unworn in the back of their wardrobe for almost 20 years?

BOOK REVIEW / A collection of chips off the old writer's block: Anthony Quinn on an encyclopaedic study of writers in sickness and in health, in infancy and old age, at rest and in motion: The maker of the omnibus - Jack Hodges: Sinclair-Stevenson pounds 20

HENRY JAMES did it standing up. Jerome K Jerome generally preferred it in 'the dark streets to my dismal bed-sitting-room'. Dickens and Tennyson used to do it while walking, as did Housman and Chesterton. Carlyle even managed to do it on horseback. Literary composition, as The Maker of the Omnibus reveals, does not always entail sitting down at a desk, and especially not when in the throes of inspiration. As far as bon confort goes, Proust seems to have had the right idea - the best place for it is in bed.

Property: The high price of a literary lodging

IF YOU have little but the house to leave to your grandchildren, it is worth giving some thought to boosting its value. You could, for example, take in a budding writer as a lodger.

Channel Ports: Seeking to solve the puzzle of Picardy: What beauties lie behind the slag heaps? Where is Amiens, and why did William Morris go there? Frank Barrett spent a weekend finding out

I DECIDED on a weekend in Amiens without being absolutely sure where it is. You see it signposted on the Calais to Paris motorway, not far from Calais. Or was I confusing it with Arras? I knew only that Amiens is in Picardy. Somewhere.

Collecting: Lightly battered but in the best possible taste: John Windsor meets Christopher Gibbs, originator of the slightly distressed English country house look, who has been buying at auction for 30 years

NOD in appreciation next time you stroll past the unobtrusive, softly-lit Georgian antique shop hidden on the narrow corner of Vigo Street, near London's Piccadilly. It is the sanctum of Christopher Gibbs, the antique dealer who has gained a reputation as the most influential taste-maker in antiques for well-off homes.

PROPERTY / LIVING HISTORIES: Suburban Glories: At the turn of the century, nostalgia for the rural past and the desire to escape the inner city produced a burgeoning Arts-and-Craftsy suburbia. The cottagey detail and craftsmanship originally inspired by William Morris gave delight to Mr Pooters galore. 4 The Edwardian House

THE KELLERMANS did not know what they were moving into when they bought their strangely cottagey house, with its steep, pitched tiled roof and witty architectural detailing, in Hampstead Garden Suburb. They simply knew they liked its rural charm - an unusual quality to find in a housing estate in north London.

PROPERTY / LIVING HISTORIES: Printing off the Morris blocks: 4 The Edwardian House - Period Crafts - Arthur Sanderson & Son, Hand-printed Wallpapers

WILLIAM MORRIS, the Arts and Crafts movement's leading light and seminal in the development of decorative arts, issued his first wallpaper designs in the 1860s and his last 30 years later. Today, those same intricate designs, around 55 in all, inspired by natural forms - plants, birds, flowers - are being hand-printed by Sanderson at its mill near Blackburn, using Morris's original blocks and methods little changed from the 19th century.

Obituary: Alan Thomas

Alan Gradon Thomas, bookseller, born 19 October 1911, died London 3 August 1992.
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