100 yards short of common sense and a quiet life

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The Independent Online
THE Princess of Wales protests that someone is trying to make out she's mad. But no sane woman would do what she did on Wednesday - get her chauffeur to drop her off 100 yards from the studio where she's having her portrait painted, so she had to walk past waiting photographers and building-site workers. Anyone who can work a parking meter knows to steer well clear of building-site workers, who are always ready with some rude quip about your body, and, sometimes, what they'd like to do with it. And most bodies aren't even honed, like Diana's, by tennis, aromatherapy and colonic irrigation. The builders, if they actually got to them, would find them wobbly with cellulite.

Diana's behaviour seems madder still when you remember she's supposed to be a recluse. Since she made her announcement about retiring from public life, she's appeared in a very little, very plunging black dress on the night of her husband's television documentary, and reportedly been in discussion about interviews with Walter Cronkite and Oprah Winfrey (finding the other bulimic princesses for Oprah's studio audience could prove a bit of an obstacle). But you only have to study the photographs in the past week of Diana getting into her car for evidence of madness: she's always smiling sweetly and looking up coquettishly from under her eyelashes. What sane person looks seductive as she's getting into her car? Normal people are worrying about whether they have time to get to the supermarket, or who let the children crush crisps over the back seat. The commonest car-unlocking expression is a scowl. But Diana, though said to be a generally unhappy person, always gets into her car looking perky and cute.

Since 'retirement' Diana's has been a life devoted to cranky therapies, hairdressing and body toning. She is allowed the occasional girls' lunch, but she's never had that great a relationship with food. And girls are all very well, but she must be heading towards her sexual peak: a woman of 33 wants a bit of being adored and made love to. Diana spends hours getting her body in optimum condition, and then . . . zilch. Love only from the camera. No wonder she's always ready to be snapped. But it makes her do some mad things.

INSANITY has also erupted at the Green Party, which has suspended its most appealing and intelligent figure, Jonathon Porritt. Its only appealing and intelligent figure, in fact, since it called Sara Parkin 'a liability to the worldwide green movement' and made her leave. It did have one other famous figure, but he started wearing a turquoise shellsuit, saying he was the son of God and predicting the world would end in 1997. Oddly, the Greens didn't make much effort to get rid of him - indeed, they invited him to address fringe meetings at the party conference. But then, if David Icke really had been the son of God, they could have worn their sandals with new confidence. Religion lends a spurious gravitas to eccentricity: people might have been less cruel about their bobble hats and lentils.

'Think globally, act locally,' went one slogan, which the party interpreted with typical whimsicality (ignoring the first part, going overboard on the second): its 1992 conference agenda had only two motions that weren't about internal organisation, on the Kurds and Guyana. Both burning issues, no doubt, especially if you're Kurdish or Guyanese, but not great vote winners in Weybridge. Meanwhile the countryside is covered in roads, children develop asthma, nuclear power stations sit around waiting to radiate, and the Third World doesn't get noticeably richer. Contemplating your own holiness must be soothing, but it's tedious for everyone else.

A BOOK called How To Gain An Extra Hour Every Day by Ray Josephs landed on my desk last week. Here, I thought, is one for me: I'm always behind, mainly because I can't get up in the morning. Unfortunately, Ray's first suggestion (main suggestion, really) turned out to be 'Get an early start'. He suggests 4am. He writes in an ebullient smug tone that makes you think he's never had to find an extra hour a day, because he's always bounced out of bed at dawn, and thinks people who haven't are spineless. Or stupid: one of his tips is 'make sure you are not moving your lips when you read'.

Ray is keen on lists, preferably with alphabetical, numerical and coloured codes. They can be on computer, in organisers or on index cards, maybe all three, and by the time you have finished making them half the morning will be gone. Especially as you'll be late from having had to stay at home to sew coloured labels on your sheets, so you 'can tell at a glance whether they are singles or doubles'.

At work, you mustn't look out of the window, or sit near an open door where you might be distracted. You certainly mustn't talk to colleagues, especially to get to know them better. On aeroplanes, you should sit under the screen, to avoid the temptations of pleasure. When you have visitors, you should stand up and shoo them out when you've had enough, even if they're still talking. On no account must you offer them coffee or tea ('this time-wasting habit'). No wonder Ray has an extra hour: I should think he has 24. He can't possibly have any friends. I have now given up trying to find the extra hour and am consoling myself with the thought that Einstein used to sleep for half the day.

THE DTI has declined to seek a second opinion as to whether Lord Archer's 'grave mistake' in buying Anglia shares mightn't have been something a bit more. To those untutored in the arcane ways of the equity markets, it looks dead fishy: Lord Archer's wife is a director of Anglia, and a takeover bid was imminent. He didn't go through his usual broker, conducted the transaction in someone else's name, yet had the cheque sent to his own flat. Someone is now pounds 80,000 better off. Rebecca Gillon, meanwhile, stole pounds 380 from Barclays Bank, and repaid it before the theft was discovered, for which she was sentenced to 21 days in prison (later cut on appeal) despite being seven months pregnant. I just hope if ever I get tangled up in funny- looking money mistakes I am a millionaire who throws glittering political parties.