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Food writers make a meal of it

THE NATION's food and drink writers assembled in Bookeresque fashion on Wednesday night for the annual Glenfiddich awards ceremony, an event normally marked by some grace and dignity (notwithstanding the customary tears of pride, much thanking of all those who made this possible - my butcher, the woman who grows my rosemary and thyme, and so on).

On this occasion, however, the announcement that Margaret Shaida had won the 'food book of the year' prize - a pewter quaich, or Scottish drinking cup - for her mouthwatering tome The Legendary Cuisine of Persia was not greeted with universal applause. Not that the audience was not delighted for her - many cheered loud and long. It was just that various eminent members of the Guild of Food Writers, interested observers of the event, had not, well, anticipated she might win.

Three weeks earlier, Mrs Shaida had applied to join the guild, but was told rather dismissively that members needed to earn their living by writing about food. Why not, they suggested, apply again in six months' time? Sometime before the ceremony, we gather, someone in the guild had second thoughts - a note arrived, and the winner now thinks she will be a paid-up member by next week.

ACCORDING to legend at Hertford College, Oxford, John Patten didn't like undergraduates using the dons' lavatory, so he had a lock fitted and kept the key. His colleagues were not amused, if only because he didn't realise that they, too, might occasionally need a key themselves.

Model counsel WITH THE abandonment of some of the judiciary's traditions since Lord Taylor's appointment as Lord Chief Justice - judges can now talk to the likes of journalists and may soon be sitting in judgment sans wig, for example - an ambitious young barrister, Nigel Fraser, whose last case was the Strangeways trial, has pushed the liberalising reforms to the extreme by embarking on a part-time modelling career.

According to Tony Barlow Associates, his PR agency - yes, he employs a PR agency - Fraser, 29, who will continue at the Bar, is one of the most striking looking and fashionable dressers in the Inner Temple. 'And if you are ever looking for a young professional to model the latest clothes or to show what the fashion-conscious young legal talents are wearing today, Nigel would be the ideal person,' the agency says. We're sure he would, but Lord Lane would have had him frogmarched out of the Inner Temple for less.

MEANWHILE, Fraser's male colleagues at the Temple are becoming more proprietorial than usual about their role in chambers, fearing, apparently that the women are taking over. 'Tokenism running riot,' cried one wig on reading the list of newly created Queen's Counsel (six women out of 70).

Fat and furious FOLLOWING yesterday's (serious) paragraph on another page of this newspaper about Sweden's concern at its overcrowded prison population - there are reports that Russians in need of hard currency are travelling to Sweden to commit crimes, so taking advantage of that country's curious habit of paying prisoners to attend training courses - we were inspired to check an item in Future Fitness, a serious and informative British health magazine.

The magazine related a disturbing story about a class of 'fed-up fatties' in Sweden who became so enraged at their fitness instructor that they pummelled her to death. Considering this a rather drastic way of getting money - the 14 fatties collapsed with exhaustion, making it impossible to escape from the law - we rang the magazine's editor, Paul McMahon, who said that his columnist, Michael King, had assured him the article was factual and had promised to send the local newspaper cuttings on which it was based. Did he do so? 'I must admit, we never received the cuttings.' Oh dear.

PATTEN again, and those curriculum tests - Marian Darke, president of the National Union of Teachers, cited one teacher's misgivings when addressing colleagues the other day: 'I'm trying to do Romeo and Juliet with a mixed-ability year 9 group (13- to 14-year-olds), one of whom thought he'd done well to remember that Juliet's name was Catapult.'


16 April 1939 Ernst Junger, German novelist and former soldier, notes in his journal at Kirchhorst: 'Looking out of the window while writing, I see on the road one field-gun after another speeding towards the East, just as they did in the Great War, in the run-up to a major battle. During the last few weeks, Germany has occupied Bohemia, Moravia and Memel, and the Italians have entered Albania. All the signs predict a war in the near future, and I also foresee that I will be obliged to suspend my work. And this at a time when I felt that my circumstances were becoming easier and my time was more and more profitably occupied. Whatever happens, my pen will become unemployed, except for the keeping of a journal. My eyes will have their chance now, because there certainly won't be a lack of things to see.'