Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (21/02/10

Never gives up, even in Lent

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Ever generous,
The IoS took a little ice-breaker when it met the PM this week: a gift of a photo, dating back three decades when the then rector of Edinburgh University was clearly having difficulty with his flies. The picture also shows John Reid, Cabinet member of many parts under Mr Brown's predecessor. But the real legend in the picture, as any Scot over 35 can tell you, is much-loved football commentator, Arthur Montford, then rector at Glasgow University. "My friend, Arthur! A wonderful man," says the PM on seeing his old chum, who is still going strong on the golf course in his eighties. But of Reid he only says, "He looks pretty serious." The men fell out long ago. Over what, no one really knows. Perhaps not such a good idea to take the snap along.

The Guardian's sale of the Manchester Evening News was, I can now confirm, against the wishes of the Scott Trust's founding fathers. Last week, I revealed how the original deeds of the trust written in 1936 were understood to specify protection of both newspapers, not just the national. Now a reader has sent in a copy of the 1948 document, which clearly states that, although not a binding condition, "The Settlors... desire that the persons becoming entitled to the Settled Funds shall use their best endeavours to procure that the business of the Company shall be continued and the Manchester Guardian and Manchester Evening News... shall be carried on as nearly as may be upon the same principles as... while under the guidance and control of the said John Russell Scott and his family and the Trustees of the 1936 Settlement." You can rewrite history but you can't bury it.

A rare moment of confusion in Brussels: a meeting of one of the EU health committees was going particularly badly, deadlocked by intransigence and red tape, when, in a bid to get things moving, the French-speaking chair announced that what was needed was "la sagesse des Normands". This was translated as "What we need now is Norman Wisdom." No doubt both were true.

In its bid to take over the world, Google is making more enemies. One of its latest functions, Google Suggest, predicts your search from the first few letters you type in. But if you tap in "Why Arabs", it suggests "smell", "have big noses" and "lose wars". Tap in "why are Arabs" and you get "so stupid", "so ugly" and "so hairy". Google explains: "We try not to suggest queries that could be offending to a large audience of users," including "queries that lead to... hate and violence terms". Hmm...

What is Margaret Drabble's secret? The novelist and biographer was at the relaunch of The London Salon, the grandest book club, which reconvened this month after a two-year absence, was established "to provide a nourishing community for women writers". But while other members, among them Hilary Spurling and Miranda Seymour, introduced themselves by describing their current work, Drabble said: "I am not writing a novel at the moment. I am working on something... but I won't say what." Please tell us, Maggie. We promise not to blab.

Ahead of the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth, on 1 March, Count Adam Zamoyski celebrated the launch of his new biography of the composer on Tuesday, with friends and family, including his wife, the society painter Emma Sergeant. So there was confusion when Thursday's Daily Telegraph announced the engagement of Count Adam Zamoyski to Natsumi Arai, only daughter of Mr and Mrs Yuzo Arai of Kawasaki, Japan. Happily, I can clarify that Zamoyski has a nephew, also a Count, also called Adam.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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