Diary

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Faraway corner of a foreign field

WHILE preparations continue for the huge D-Day 50th anniversary ceremonies in Europe in the summer, a far more private, poignant tribute is being planned on the Indonesian island of Ambon, 600 miles north of the Australian port of Darwin.

Twenty war widows are due to travel to the island to visit Ambon cemetery, formerly a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, which now contains the graves of 811 British servicemen who died fighting for the Dutch East Indies between 11 January and 1 March 1942. They lie alongside Australian and Dutch servicemen who died in hand-to-hand fighting with the invading Japanese, and many of the graves are occupied by prisoners who perished while being held in inhuman conditions at the camp.

The trip to the cemetery, organised by the British Legion, will be the first time most of the widows have visited the site. 'Many have got as far as the Somme and Thailand,' explains a Legion spokesman, 'but few until now have ventured to the most remote foreign cemetery of them all.'

The war widows, I am told, will not be disappointed with the last resting place of their loved ones. According to the organiser, Gerald Ferrett, who plans to set off in October and is one of the few to have visited Ambon, it is 'one of the most serene places on earth'.

MPs have now turned poor David Ashby into a verb. To 'Ashby' is to share a bed for financial purposes, while one shadow minister this week recalled Ashby- ing as a young student on a foreign trip with a robust and profoundly heterosexual student friend. Meanwhile, I'm told that another MP has been heard offering female friends trips abroad on 'Ashby terms'.

Blair's shirt tale

THE normally immaculately attired shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair let himself down, I gather, when he arrived for an interview with Channel 4 last Friday. The director of the programme decided he was inappropriately dressed for the interview - Blair was talking about the Fabians - and scouted around the office for something more suitable to wear. A crisp white shirt was duly produced and the day was saved.

There is a problem, however. Blair was so pleased with his shirt that he failed to remove it on departure, and is, I'm told, becoming more and more attached to the garment as each day goes by. At first failing to spot its disappearance, Channel 4 finally rang Mr Blair on Tuesday to ask for its return. Not without difficulty, they were told. The shadow Home Secretary had become so partial to it that he had had it washed and pressed, and was wearing it again.

HE MAY soon become the England football manager, but until such an announcement, Terry Venables is keeping his feet on the ground. On Tuesday night, Venables was at the Scribes West dining club, where he has a large stake. For non-football readers, he was the tubby one on cloakroom duty.

Porn-again tycoon

MINGLING with the crowd at a computer show in Las Vegas last weekend, a well-known born-

again Christian who seemed surprisingly interested in some certificate 18-rated software entitled Voyeur (the many salacious scenes include women in black suspenders dragging men on leashes) displayed on the Philips stand. I assume Rupert Murdoch must have mistaken the title for something more salubrious.

THE Republican sentiments of his old home Australia have obviously crept into David Banks's Daily Mirror, which yesterday had difficulty recognising our monarch. 'So close: the Queen and the duchess embrace,' runs the caption under a picture of

the Duchess of Kent - with the sister of the Queen, Princess Margaret.

A DAY LIKE THIS

13 January 1987 Hanif Kureishi writes in his diary: 'Seven in the morning and freezing cold. Behind me I can hear tubes rattling. These west London streets by the railway line have gone wrong. In 1978 most of the five-storey houses with their crumbling pillars, peeling facades and broken windows were derelict, inhabited by itinerants, immigrants, drug-heads and people not ashamed of being seen drunk on the street. On the balcony opposite a man regularly practised the bagpipes at midnight. Now the street is crammed with people who work for a living. Young men wear striped shirts and striped ties; the women wear blue jumpers with white shirts, turned-up collars and noses, and pearls. They drive Renault 5s and late at night, as you walk along the street, you can see them in their clean shameless basements having dinner parties and playing Trivial Pursuit on white tablecloths. Now the centre of the city is inhabited by the young rich and serviced by everyone else.'

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