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Unpoetic licence of British Rail ads

AS MINISTERS continue their deliberations over a possible 12 per cent fare increase for commuters in south-east England, the Diary has identified a possible saving. British Rail should scrap its advertising department.

Three months ago, British Rail produced some captions to photographs on its Paddington to Oxford trains. These spelt Keble College as Keeble, Magdalen College as Magdalene, and Christ Church as Christchurch College. Ordering new captions, BR explained the mistakes by saying that the new Turbo trains had been built in York, 'which is a long way from Oxford'.

Now British Rail is having difficulties with Windsor. After printing 60,000 glossy leaflets called 'Windsor by Train', BR has had to reprint 40,000 copies - the whole operation cost several thousand pounds - after one of its account executives spotted a serious mistake. On the front page of the leaflet, Network SouthEast Advertising ran the following literary quotation, with its author pictured above a photograph of the castle. 'A sight so touching in it's majesty' - Tennyson.

There should not be an apostrophe in 'its', but let that pass. Tennyson? The lines were actually written by Wordsworth. Windsor? The lines actually form part of the poem, 'Composed upon Westminster Bridge'. Which is in London, for the benefit of BR.

At the bottom of the leaflet, BR informs its customers that it had 'made every effort to ensure the information contained in this booklet was correct at time of going to press'. Wordsworth wrote his poem in 1807. Unfortunate, admitted Jack Paterson, BR's advertising manager, although he says the extra 40,000 leaflets were in response to public demand. 'Be kind to us,' he said.

INTERESTED by an advertisement in the Times that offered 'Erotic Bronze Chess Set. Unusual Design. pounds 400 o n o', Chess Monthly rang the supplied Bristol number. These are the bare essentials of the conversation. Bristol lady: Hello. Chess Monthly: Hello. I'm calling about the erotic chess set. BL: I beg your pardon. CM: The one of unusual design. Could you describe it please? BL: I'm putting the phone down. Click. Assuming it had misdialled, Chess Monthly rang again. BL: (sharply) Yes? CM: Look, I'm sorry to disturb you, but do you or don't you have an erotic chess set of unusual design? BL: I know who you are, and I'm reporting this call to the police. Click. I blame the exotic sub-editor on the Times.

Rushdie's hairy past

SALMAN RUSHDIE may not thank me for dragging up examples of his juvenilia, but here is an insight into the young Rushdie, who was once employed as a senior copywriter at the advertising agency Leagas Shafron Davis Chick Ayer. It's commonly known that Rushdie was the inspiration behind the 'naughty but nice' catchline, but he also wrote the television commercial for the Clairol 1200 hair dryer in 1979. Focusing on a woman cavorting in a field and brandishing the hair dryer like a gun, Rushdie penned the voice-over: 'When you are on the move, Clairol is for you.' He liked hair products. For Loving Care, a hair colourant, he came up with 'Loving Care was made to care'. More examples another time.

THE about-to-retire presenter of Gardener's Question Time, Clay Jones, will not be inviting John Birt to supper, although that may be just as well. Yesterday he recalled growing his first vegetables, and then cooking them. That's not what most of his listeners would do with lettuces and radishes.

Verbal diplomacy SPARE a thought for the newest ambassador in London, Pavli Qesku, who for the past two months has been representing Albania from a two-bedroom flat in Pimlico, south London, with only one member of staff, his deputy, Vangjel Dheri, no money and only a vague notion of how to deal with the British and its press. He landed the job not because he was a diplomat, but because he was the producer of the definitive Anglo/Albanian dictionary.


25 August 1989 Derek Jarman writes in his journal: 'Late lunch at Mildred's vegetarian restaurant. A young man from Chicago started up a conversation; it turned out he knew friends of mine there. I told him about M, who is heir to a great fortune, and whose mother, disapproving of his lifestyle, 'buried' him at a society funeral: her way of telling him to disappear. Now he can visit his own headstone and contemplate immortality. Another conversation struck up with someone who worked for the dreaded Murdoch's Sky TV. Mr Murdoch is in the news criticising British TV. He is quite right about it and its awful costume dramas: hideous design and indecent acting, reinforcing class, snobbery, all that the British consider valuable. The young man from Chicago, after his year at the Architecture Association, made the same criticism. It had taken him this year to grow to hate London: 'Everything has to be measured by the past here,' he said. 'If you make a criticism, it falls on deaf ears. People are so convinced they are superior'.'