Diary

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The Independent Online
A presidential yank at Oxford

NOW in Europe for the first time in his presidency, Bill Clinton seems intent on making up for lost time. He is due to come back in the summer - to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The President is expected to spend only one day of this trip in Britain, and the best part of it will be spent in Oxford, where he will collect his degree of doctor of civil law by diploma. The decision to devote the day to the university is particularly prized by University College, where Mr Clinton is already an honorary fellow. The Master, Professor John Albery, is a keen admirer of the President, and visited him this summer at the White House.

The ceremony will strike a contrast with the attempt to award Baroness Thatcher with an honorary doctorate, when queues of Oxford dons lined up outside the Sheldonian Theatre in protest, ensuring that she did not ultimately receive one. The degree that Clinton will receive from the vice-chancellor, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, is more prestigious, awarded as it is exclusively to royalty and heads of state.

News of Clinton's arrival had not reached the college yesterday, but the Stars and Stripes is ready for unfurling.

CONTRARY to press reports, staff at the Tower of London have more pressing matters to attend to than the moving of the Crown Jewels. The tower's ravens have been a treasured species since 1662, when Charles II passed a royal charter ordering that at least six of them should be kept there for all time - superstition had it that the monarchy would fall if the ravens were to flee. The ravens refusing to breed however, the tower has sufficed for 300 years with imported birds. Then there was a breakthrough.

In 1989, a chick nicknamed Ronald Raven was hatched, and raven master David Cope sat back and waited for more of the same. Thirteen chicks arrived over the next two years, and the tower's problems seemed over. But sadly all is not well. In 1992 and 1993, there were no new arrivals, the result, it is believed, of all the building upheavals at the tower.

'We are just waiting and hoping,' says Mr Cope. 'So far the signs for 1994 are promising.'

This your car, sir?

'OF ALL the cars in this year's Top 10, the one I most wanted to try was the Bentley Turbo R,' writes Matthew Bishop, sub-editor of Car magazine in next month's issue. He did try one, but there is a moral here about office perks. Driving the Bentley through London's Docklands following a photographic shoot for the magazine's front cover, he was pulled up by 12 policemen who could not square the car with its driver, a 28-year-old dressed in jeans and wearing an earring.

His troubles had only started. There was no tax disc on the car's window (it had been removed for the shoot) and there were also a couple of false numberplates in the boot (also for photographic use). It took Bishop 45 minutes to persuade the police of his innocence, but minutes after driving off, he was in trouble again. This time a drunk was tugging at his door handles, swearing and spitting. I trust the magazine gives it a good review.

FOR concertgoers who cannot reserve their coughs for the interval, a new trend has been initiated by Leeds Town Hall. Available to the audience arriving for a concert last weekend were buckets of throat lozenges in rustle-free wrapping. I gather there was not a sound throughout.

Final chapter

AS THIS newspaper's obituary of Llewellyn Rees pointed out yesterday, the actor and theatre administrator was completing his memoirs shortly before he died, remarking that he hoped he would live to end the last few pages. A professional to the very last, and with consummate timing, he did complete them. His wife, Madeleine, delivered them to the publishers on Friday, only hours before he died.

A DAY LIKE THIS

11 January 1942 Ian Morrison in Malaya describes Kuala Lumpur as it waits for the Japanese army: 'The scene that met one's eyes in the city was fantastic. Civil authority had broken down. The European officials and residents had all evacuted. There was looting in progress such as I have never seen before. Most of the big foreign department stores had already been whistled clean since the white personnel had gone. There was now a general sack of all shops and premises. The streets were knee-deep in boxes and cardboard cartons and paper. Looters could be seen carrying every imaginable prize away with them. Here was one man with a Singer sewing machine over his shoulder, there a Chinese with a long roll of linoleum tied on the back of his bicycle, here two Tamils with a great sack of rice suspended from a pole, there a young Tamil with a great box of the best Norwegian sardines.'

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