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Has the BBC fixed it for Norman?

FURTHER to his recent hiring of the Cambridge and Harvard graduate Michael Romain to improve his rather tarnished public image, the former Chancellor Norman Lamont has been trying to restore relations with the Prime Minister. According to one version of events put forward at Westminster, Mr Lamont said that John Major had refused his invitations to play ping-pong at 11 Downing Street because he was frightened of losing. It is said that he subsequently regretted making that remark. The alleged comment was made on a pre-recorded tape due for release in the new series of Jim'll Fix It.

According to this version - firmly denied by Mr Romain - so anxious is Mr Lamont to make amends for his recent criticisms of John Major (they have merely resulted in increasing his own unpopularity) that he has asked the BBC to cut the relevant part of the tape which features him playing a ping-pong match against 14-year- old Russell Winfield. He is due to go to tomorrow's scheduled studio televising of the programme, and award the boy his medal.

Mr Lamont - who beat young Winfield 21-17 - takes his ping- pong extremely seriously. 'I am a fiend,' he once said. 'I've seldom met anyone who can beat me.' Until, that is, he took to the table against a certain senior Bundesbank official who was winning 2-0, only for Lamont to declare it was the best of five. In the third game the official was winded and cried off injured. It was a shortlived triumph for Lamont - days later, Black Wednesday occurred.

FROM the official Euro Disney Guest Guidebook - Discoveryland Attractions: 6. Cinemagique - Join Michael Jackson as 'Captain EO' on a 3-D musical motion picture space adventure. PLEASE NOTE: Young children may be frightened by scenes in this attraction.

Reverend runner WHEN the flat season starts next month, watch out for a six-year- old called Rasmoor Song and pray for a win - like his owner, the Rev David Eyles, who has been out at dawn in dog collar and hard hat these past few months, cajoling his new nag to greater things. The horse was not brilliant over the sticks, I'm told, which explains the grey-haired clergyman's decision to transfer to the flat. His Yorkshire parish of St Mary and St Alkelda is ideal for training horses, plenty of good gallops, and full of parishioners who are not averse to betting a bob or two. They did draw the line, however, when the Reverend suggested he did his house calls on horseback.

BRYAN GOULD's decision to retire from British politics and take up an academic post in New Zealand does not mean that the likes of fellow Labour MP John Prescott are rid of him for good. The scourge of the party's leadership had originally intended to sell his country house just outside Shipston on Stour in the Cotswolds, but I'm told he has now decided to hang on to it - with a view to a political comeback if things don't work out Down Under?

Bard of Bosnia RADOVAN KARADZIC, the Bosnian Serb leader, is forever telling the world how much he wants peace, but if he is being genuine, he must have changed his mind since 1968, when he wrote a poem entitled 'Sarajevo'. I am grateful to Professor Adrian Hastings, head of theology and religious studies at the University of Leeds, for sending me this verse from the sinister and prophetic poem.

'Sarajevo city of horror is writing my obituary/My beautiful head has escaped . . ./In blood I hear the last cries of sweet little animals/At this moment my right hand, out of peaceful seas,/Is creating a hell . . .'

'IT'S LENT. You have to give something up,' a small girl admonished her big brother in the back of a Volvo estate. A pause. 'I know,' came the inspired reply. 'I'll give up Sunday school.'


22 February 1925 A E Housman writes to the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge: 'I take up my pen in rather a sorrowful mood, because I recognise the compliment implied in the Council's offer of the Clark Lectureship, and am grateful for their friendliness and for yours, and therefore I cannot help feeling ungracious in making the answer which nevertheless is the only one possible. I do regard myself as a connoisseur; I think I can tell good from bad in literature. But literary criticism, referrring opinions to principles and setting them forth so as to command assent, is a high and rare accomplishment and quite beyond me. I remember Walter Raleigh's lecture on Landor: it was unpretending, and not adorned or even polished, but I was thinking all the while that I could never have hit the nail on the head like that. And not only have I no talent for producing the genuine article, but no taste or inclination for producing a substitute.'