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To St James's for medicinal reasons

THE ELEGANT and currently empty buildings that once housed the dissident Conservative Club in St James's, London could soon be inhabited again - not by the hitherto front-runners, ambassadors from several of the former Soviet republics, but by the less glamorous-sounding European Medicines Evaluation Agency.

The EMEA, a drug-licensing institute awarded to Britain last year by the European Union, has now entered the bidding for the building which was the home of the Conservative Club for nearly 150 years. If the move goes ahead, life there won't have quite the zest it used to.

In its glory years, the building was full of bolshy Tories who refused to toe the line set down by the neighbouring Carlton Club, the traditional home of Tory loyalists since 1832. The dissidents broke off from the Carlton in 1840 and reconvened three years later at 74 St James's Street. At the time of the split, Sir James Graham, soon to be Sir Robert Peel's Home Secretary, wrote: 'There is a new club to be formed, an offshoot from the Carlton, from which I anticipate great mischief. All this is most unfortunate, when we are on the verge of success.'

The estate agents, incidentally, tell me the former Soviets pulled out of the race for no more sinister reason than a lack of space.

ANOTHER example of computers leading their masters astray. Following my notes about charities addressing the government whip Irvine Patnick OBE as Mr Obe, and Mrs J McKenzie Foulds JP as Mrs JP, Dr Roger James tells me about an insurance company which wrote to his wife (who had the initials M C) four years after her death. Or he thinks it was intended for his wife. The letter was addressed to M C J Deceased Esq, and began 'Dear Mr Deceased.'

Maxwell: the return

IF there is such a thing as reincarnation, Robert Maxwell is still frightening the life out of the new residents at Maxwell House, aka Headington Hall - in the guise of a bat. Students at Oxford-Brookes University have been ducking and diving these past few months, but the bat shows no signs of going away. It doesn't much like Clive Booth, the vice-chancellor who had to dive for cover last year while chatting with Maxwell's widow, Betty, over tea. Coming up for air, he asked for its antecedents. 'It mysteriously appeared when Bob vanished,' Mrs Maxwell informed him, 'and I haven't been able to get rid of it since.'

POOR old Bridlington was ruled out as a conference centre by the politically correct National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) last year because it was 'not only overwhelmingly white, but overwhelmingly heterosexual in its values and leisure provisions'. Now Napo is turning the heat on its own members who must now describe their headquarters as head office. Quarters is too 'militaristic' according to a pamphlet issued to staff. Some members are perplexed, others feel the management should grow up. Or as one put it yesterday: 'Why don't we just call it Never Never Land?'

Czech-ing it out Impressed with the quality of decor in our government buildings is the Czech deputy education minister, Jan Belohalavek, who dropped in on Baroness Blatch, his British counterpart, at her Whitehall HQ the other day. So excited was he by the sanctuary and its atrium, hanging gardens and waterfall, that he whippped out his camera - only to be hurled to the floor by several burly security guards who, so I'm told, mistook him for a newspaper



4 March 1977 Peter Hall, then director of the National Theatre, writes: 'A stimulating dinner with Trevor (Nunn). We spent some time lamenting our separation, still wishing we were working together. He said it was nonsensical of me at this productive stage of my life to be considering, as I was, giving my time to running a studio in the Cottesloe (Theatre) in which directors could be developed. He pointed out that he and Terry Hands and Robin Phillips and John Barton etc, etc all came to the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Sixties because of what I was doing there on the main stage, not because of studio work. He asked me if my dream was still the same: to run a small company of treasured actors in which I staged three-quarters of the productions. I said it was. He said I should do it. The thing is how, in my current situation? The National is so large, its demands so huge. How can I have my cake and eat it? I must think.'