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A pressing matter of retirement?

UNNOTICED by the journalists he has often fiercely criticised (and just as often praised), the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord McGregor of Durris, has not been at his desk for some weeks following a heart bypass operation last month.

I'm happy to report that the operation was successful, but it does raise the question of whether he will be willing and able to carry on as chairman after his contract expires at the end of the year.

Despite occasional criticisms levelled at him by fellow members - they were not pleased when he condemned the Mirror for the Princess-in-the-gym photographs without consulting them - Lord McGregor has been a strong defender of the press against those in the Government who would like to apply the shackles.

There would be a number of candidates interested in the pounds 55,000 position. Early speculation was ruling people out rather than in, with Sir David Calcutt (advocate of statutory controls on the press) certain not to be applying.

FOLLOWING my item yesterday about the theft of at least pounds 100,000-worth of art books from the London Library, I gather that the library was neither equipped with a burglar alarm, nor staffed by an overnight security man. Either a sign of how little the library values its books, or a delightful demonstration of academic other-worldliness.

The exit is that way

AS WELL as contending with an anonymous poison-pen campaign, the director of the Royal Court Theatre in London, Stephen Daldry, has also been criticised by 16 long-suffering ushers and usherettes, who have been given three weeks to find another job. The unsung boys and girls summoned Daldry to their presence the other day to explain letters they had received warning that anyone not prepared to work five shifts a week would have to go.

One of them tells me that the dispensers of ice-cream and directions to seats are 'furious' at their treatment, not least because of Daldry's response when asked whether he was aware of the letters. 'This theatre is not a democracy,' he said.

UNTIL recently, regulars at Soho's French House pub, the Second World War hideaway of Charles de Gaulle, didn't bother to look twice at their barman - an ordinary-looking fellow with considerable talent for pulling beer. Now, however, the poor man is bombarded with endless queries about the alleged gerrymandering of Westminster City Council. The reason? As well as being an estate agent down on his luck, the barman is also a Westminster Tory councillor, Peter Martindale.

One foot in the bar

'JEFFREY Bernard has had his leg off,' reads the announcement in place of the infamous imbiber's column in this week's Spectator. It's only his foot actually, as I'm sure he will take pleasure in telling us in his next column, God willing. The magazine's exaggeration of his condition is just part of his colleagues' determination to maintain that indefinable Bernardesque wit to the last. At least this is the only explanation I feel able to offer for the tasteless quip proffered on the telephone yesterday by one of his Spectator colleagues: 'Ah . . . so it's last orders for JB . . . he must be legless at last.'

THE strain of recent events appears to have got to Michael Portillo, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who became agitated in the voting lobby the other day when a clerk was less than quick off the mark in ticking off the names of MPs as they filed past him. As the unfortunate fellow struggled to find the name of a passing eminent senior Tory, the prince-who-would- be-king gave him a helping hand: 'That's John Major, J-O-H-N M-A-J-O-R'


11 February 1983 Derek Jarman, in Rome, writes in his diary: 'We drove to Cinecitta and watched a film on the life of the saint Filippo de Neri - which, as it is in our period (he was making Caravaggio), exhibits all the problems we will face. There were a thousand DON'Ts, and hardly any DO's. I have seen only a few historical films that have worked and they all reinvented period. This made no attempt. So, a few points: 1. Design the film so you don't need a set dresser. Props look disastrous enough, but nothing is more awful than the artfully dressed street - the hay wagon standing in a vacuum. 2. I noticed bananas in one of those still lives of fruit which are used to denote plenty and fill up a blank space - particularly disastrous in a film which made a great point about the introduction of a turkey from Brazil. 3. Costumes are a problem, they never look as if they are worn. Those of the poor always look phoney. Here they were designed like a uniform of rags.'