AT LAST, John Major's press man Gus O'Donnell had something to shout about, and he wasted no time in doing so. Emerging from the Commons chamber in exultant mood after the Prime Minister's taunting of John Smith over the economic recovery, he spotted his opposite number, David Hill, and went in for the kill. We paraphrase, but this is the substance of what he said.
'Come on, Hill, admit it. You've been doing us down all this time, but now we've done it. Why can't you put your hands up and say you were wrong?' Journalists, enjoying this, stepped closer for more. O'Donnell wasn't exactly jabbing his finger at his adversary, but came pretty close. Sir Bernard Ingham would have been proud of him. Here was a story for tomorrow's front page.
But wait: what were those words? said one journalist to another. United? Villa?
The press aides were not discussing politics after all - O'Donnell is a Manchester United fan (United had virtually clinched the title the previous night) and Hill a supporter of Aston Villa (their about-to-be defeated rivals). OUR STORY last Tuesday about the advertising of Virgin Atlantic on a British Airways flight (on the BA2467 Madrid-Gatwick flight on Tuesday last week, the bottom inch of every free copy of the Evening Standard had been turned up to display a Virgin ad) has so far failed to flush out the miscreant responsible. Staff at Virgin are playing the innocent: 'It certainly wasn't our cabin crew dressed up as British Airways' cabin crew.'
Perish the thought, although one reader did raise our suspicions. He recalled how in the Fifties, while working for Pan American Airways in west Africa, he sneaked on to a BOAC flight and deposited some Pan Am souvenirs. 'It used to happen quite often and it wouldn't surprise me at all if it was still happening today.' A bottle of Lanson remains on offer for any illumination on this skulduggery.
Silver collection WHEN the late Lord Stockton denounced the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, for selling off the family silver, he started a trend that is still in vogue today. He was using the expression in a political sense, of course - referring in that instance to privatisation - as did Labour's Bob Cryer when he denounced the Tories in a speech last month. However, not everyone abroad is familiar with the idiom.
Some time after the speech, Cryer received a telephone call from Frank Enlow, a representative of the
J Peterman company, of Kentucky, who said he had read an extract from his speech in Art and Auction. Could Mr Cryer inform him when the next sale of parliamentary silver was due? The firm had nearly run out of its last consignment of House of Commons silverware (bought through a London dealer) and was anxious to replace it. Sensing a scandal, the MP has now tabled a question to Richard Shepherd, the Tory chairman of the Commons catering committee, demanding details of how, when and why the sell-off took place.
AT yesterday's memorial service for Sir Dick White, once head of MI5 and MI6, Lord Greenhill of Harrow said that in Berlin just after the war, Sir Dick had 'used his diplomatic gifts to prevent a misguided Malcolm Muggeridge from arresting P G Wodehouse.' We assume this refers to Wodehouse's broadcast to America from Germany shortly after being captured in 1940; if not, perhaps Lord Greenhill could let us know.
Sticky wickets WHEN the Australian cricketers land in London this weekend, they will be tired, and, well, drunk, some of them anyway. (The Aussies like their booze: the average family there drinks 936 cans of beer, 61 bottles of wine and 20 bottles of spirits each year.) As a curtain-raiser to the Ashes tour, the squad will again compete for membership of The Hundred Club during the 22-hour flight from Sydney, a competition that has always taxed the most hardened of drinkers. So far, the club is empty because no one has managed to drink the required 100 'tinnies' of beer during the flight, but the Aussies are hoping to put that right this year.
In 1977, Doug Walters set the standard, but this was soon overtaken by Rodney Marsh, Australia's most successful wicket keeper, who was rumoured to have drunk 50-odd tinnies in a record his team mates thought would stand forever. But then came last year's marathon bout from David Boon, who consumed 57 'some hours' before arriving in London. If the record is broken this weekend, we'll let you know.
FIRST we have them in Gibraltar, speaking behind screens and known as X and Y. Then Matrix Churchill, and we begin to get used to it. Now anything goes. For the first time, an ordinary police officer, albeit working in the vice squad, was yesterday introduced to a court as police Sergeant Y. What were the authorities so worried about? International espionage? Not exactly: they just didn't want Turnmills, a London night club, to receive its 24-hour licence.
A DAY LIKE THIS
23 April 1965 Ned Rorem, in New York, writes in his journal: 'Fled to Stella Adler's party. I had mentioned to no one I'd be there. So later when the doorbell rang (interrupting converse with her 12 non-bohemian guests), I was nonplussed to hear 'my guests had arrived'. In the foyer stood Andy Warhol with four dishevelled sidekicks, all silent, glassy-eyed, placing me in a false position. Without waiting to ask how they knew I was there, I slammed the door. Whereupon Andy phoned to the party for the rest of the evening. Picasso would not permit himself such dreary liberties. Party-crashing stops at 17. Had I let them in they would not - with the spirit of a Gregory Corso - have romped about goosing actresses, but stood like statues. It's the new style . . .'Reuse content