TEN YEARS after the harrowing assassination of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in St James's Square, London, the indeterminate status of that building has finally come to an end. Earlier this week the bulk of the contents of the embassy - vacated by staff after the siege - were sold, raising pounds 10,000 for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime and concluding, for the time being, his business in the UK.
The sale, which took place at the low-key Canterbury Auction Galleries, was organised by Courage breweries, which now owns the head lease on the building. The Libyans' taste is not that of the brewers, who immediately shuffled the furnishings - a few gilt antiques and light fittings - into storage.
Judging by the meagre total raised by the auction, the handful of dealers who came to the sale were not ecstatic about the wares. 'The best pieces were a 19th-century gilt mirror which went for pounds 1,450 and a late 18th-century console table which sold for pounds 2,300,' Tony Pratt, managing director of Courage, said afterwards. The money, I'm told, will go to Libya's agent, and then back to Tripoli. It should, of course, be donated to WPC Fletcher's family.
'I'M A POET, you know, and I'd love to join your organisation' (middle-aged man to chap from the Writers' Guild at a House of Commons reception last week). The guild - approached before the middle-aged man's verses appeared in last Sunday's papers - is still considering Hartley Booth's application.
What ho, granny
ADMIRERS of Bertie Wooster should delight in the following story about the nephew of the Earl of Gainsborough, who recently called in at one of his ancestral homes - at Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire - expecting a bed for the night. Unaware that his grandmother, Lady Maureen Fellowes, was abroad, and surprised that his repeated cries for assistance failed to wake the sleeping servants, James Sandbach - a 24-year-old divinity graduate - scaled a wall up towards an open window, slipped through and dropped gratefully (badly scuffed new brogues notwithstanding) to the floor.
As Wodehouse might have put it, I don't know if you have ever experienced the sensation of dropping through an open window into a larder late at night, and finding yourself on a crash course with a rack of vintage wine belonging to an aged relative that you know will topple to the ground the moment you touch it. Sandbach knows the feeling, and it didn't end there. Picking himself up from the wreckage, and establishing that the door was locked from the outside, he hammered on it for several hours before clambering back through the window whence he had come, his sodden socks squelching with claret, and heading off miserably for the local B&B.
He tells me he has replaced his grandmother's wine - she had moved it to the larder from the cellar for a special occasion - and adds: 'I was knee deep in wine, but I was so fed up in that larder that I wasn't even tempted to have a drink.'
MORALE at No 10 has probably been higher, but for one official working for John Major the job has its highs as well as lows. Arriving for a day shift, shortly before the PM's visit to Moscow, the official was told to put his coat back on again and set off for the West End. There he spent the best part of the day - looking for a furry hat for his master.
A curious sensation
VIBRATING pagers are the latest cause for excitement at the House of Commons, where Sir Russell Johnston, freshly equipped, wandered unwittingly into the chamber the other day with a curious trembling sensation above his belt line. Assuming he was suffering from indigestion, Sir Russell, the Liberal Democrats' elder statesman, begged to be excused and rushed into the whips' office, where he was quickly reassured. The twinge was nothing more than a message from a secretary.
A DAY LIKE THIS
17 February 1824 Henry Crabb Robinson, barrister and friend of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Lamb, writes in his diary: 'I had a short chat with Benecke, and read him extracts from Jeremy Taylor. Glad to find Benecke a thinking Christian. He is, with all his piety and gravity, a believer in universal restoration, or, at least, a disbeliever in eternal punishment. By the by, I met the other day this remark: 'It is a greater difficulty how evil should ever come into the world, than that, there being evil already here, it should be continued for ever in the shape of punishment. If it is not inconsistent with the Divine attributes to suffer guilt, is it so that He should ordain punishment?' But I think I have a short and yet satisfactory answer. Evil here, and the evil of punishment, like all other may be means to an end, which end may be the good of all. But eternal punishment supposes evil to be an End.'Reuse content