n IF, AS I pass along my way, I can give a little hand-up here and there, I do. And today I want to help Peter Stothard, editor of the Times, a cheap newspaper. Some time ago I noted that Peter was having something of an identity crisis, in that people seemed to be having a lot of trouble identifying him. The case I brought to your attention was the embarrassment in the posh Westminster restaurant when half-way through lunch a Gordon Brown aide had to ask him who he was. I advised Peter then to wear one of those little sticky labels on his lapel, but he has taken no notice. Now I hear of another unfortunate incident, at the recent reunion of editors of Cherwell, the Oxford student newspaper, where Peter, one of them, approached a group of his peers, announced himself and was mistaken for a lawyer. So I thought I would print a picture of Peter to end all this confusion once and for all. Unfortunately, we didn't have one, which is why I have appended an Identikit version, which I'm assured is most accurate.
LISTEN, I could write one of those bestsellers if I wanted to, believe me. It's only my integrity and an inability to write convincing sex scenes that's been holding me back. Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered that A & C Black, the publisher of Who's Who, was bringing out a slim volume entitled Writing Erotic Fiction. Trembling, I read it. What I must do, orders Derek Parker, author, writer of 15 erotic novels, is use interesting slang names for the various bodily parts, provide some bondage and discipline for male readers and some unconventional clothing and bizarre props for female readers. Right, then: "Whack! Marcus, switching off the lamp on his helmet, slapped his thrappet down meaningfully on the table next to the Eccles cake. Jessica looked startled." Good, eh? More next week!
n FORGET all this other stuff about Jonathan Aitken: what you, along with the rest of the country, will be wanting to know about is the progress of my complaint against him. Aitken, after all, is the member of the National Union of Journalists whom I reported for being very rude about his colleagues, accusing them, inter alia, of "bent and twisted journalism" in their coverage of his varied and exotic life. Well, you can't rush a Rule 19, Subsection L ("A member shall treat other journalists with consideration") complaint. I understand, though, that a letter to the said Aitken is being prepared, informing him of the complaint and his right to appear to answer my charge. Meanwhile, I have come across an interesting passage in Aitken's book, The Young Meteors, written in the 1960s, in which he describes taking LSD for the purposes of writing a newspaper article. Here are some of his comments under the influence: "I see rivers running with blood ... I know more about myself, too, and can resolve all kinds of doubts about my future ... I know I am seeing into the future ... I have seen something no one else has". Spooky, or what? Perhaps I shall ask him about this, too.
AND while we're on Aitken, I must tell you a story I heard at supper last week, one so intriguing as to make it almost worthwhile venturing west of Kensington. It seems that World in Action, which is being sued by Aitken over that programme featuring Arabs, arms, the health farm, and that camel on the sands at Formby, has been preparing its defence and interviewing various poules de luxe about various things. And one of them, by way of an aside, has been relating the tale of the very senior Fleet Street journalist who likes being led around on all fours in a collar. A newshound, indeed. Can such things be? Down, boy!
n YES, it's comp time! We have had a letter from Prue Leith in her capacity as deputy chairman of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (bit of a mouthful, that, Prue!). Prue is worried about the vacant plinth in Trafalgar Square, the one in the north west corner that has been empty since the square was laid out. The RSA thinks it an eyesore and wants the public to come up with ideas, then vote on them. Someone has suggested Mrs Thatcher on a tank. The Captain is eager that you should play your part in this important national enterprise. Not only will I forward your suggestions to the RSA and award champagne to the best, I will also present, with a touch of Moonlight magic, a mocked- up version of the winner for you to cut out and keep. So get comping! Captain's caution: while I welcome sober, sensible suggestions, you'll be damn lucky if you get any fizz for them.
READERS with longer memories and time on their hands will perhaps recall my man at the BBC, Bert, an unfailing source of insight into the workings of the corporation. Well, sadly, Bert had his collar felt, card marked, future outlined and decided to retire from my service. Which is why today I should like to introduce you to his successor, Marmaduke, who rang me last week to complain about the BBC news crews in Bosnia. Marmaduke, in a fury, told me that yet another cameraman was now refusing to work with the great Kate Adie, maintaining, laughably, that she was a danger to life and limb driving the BBC's special transport, that she insisted on going to places where they could be shot at, and that cameramen were a damn sight safer with that Martin Bell. Sheer male chauvinism, raw cowardice and an inability to deal with the focused intensity of a real professional, I suggested to Marmaduke.
n GRACIOUS, this Tory spirit of rebellion is spreading all over the shop! I Cain, Dip Ed, my education correspondent, tells me that one of the fellows responsible for all the unrest at Rugby over the head girl chap is Rhodri Richards, son of the Welsh Office minister, Roderick Richards. Frankly, I would be more surprised at this appalling lack of respect for authority if the boy's father didn't insist on being called "Rod".
TAKING NO CHANCES: Anthea Turner, dizzy, daffy and endlessly entertaining queen of the National Lottery, unveils the centrepiece strategy of Camelot's new master plan for protecting the anonymity of lottery winners. "The great thing about wearing one of these," explained bubbly Anthea, "is that a winner can go about his or her daily business without the slightest chance of anybody being able to identify them." No? Well, it was worth a try. Actually, it's a number of Tory MPs from the No Turning Back group being prepared for a rigorous question-and-answer session with Fifi LeTouquet (pictured before she changed into something more suitable). Really really? It's Marianne Tille, who works at Dresden's Museum of Hygiene, pictured with a collection of gas masks which form part of the current exhibition, Rubber, the Elastic Fascination. A vast variety of rubber products are on display. No, no, it is, honestly.
Photograph by HANS EDINGER/AP
The Captain's catch-up Service
HERE IT IS, once again, the news review with the inbuilt "cor, lummy, well bless my soul" factor ... A South American hawk-headed parrot called Sparky bit a man accused of handling stolen parrots during his trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court. Another exhibit was the frozen body of a blue-headed Pionus parrot ... Phillip Cheeseman, of Luton, lost his job with B&Q after complaining about having to take part in aerobic exercises which involved chanting "B&Q are the best. We're the one and only" over and over again ... Fourteen minders employed by large puppet Barney the Dinosaur jumped on Mr Blobby when he tried to join Barney on stage in north London. "These huge guys all rushed towards Mr Blobby and laid into him. It was a disgrace," said an upset mother of two ... Jimmy Armit, 33, of Fife, the Scotland soccer team's most dedicated fan, has died in India. Armit, who travelled 2,000 miles by bus to get to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, living off toothpaste, was reputedly looking for the world's most remote pub.