DOMINIC LAWSON's inheritance of many of his father's qualities has undoubtedly helped his journalistic career - he is editor of the Spectator - so I am glad to see that his well of self-confidence shows no signs of drying up.
With the Cheltenham Festival of Literature on the horizon (8-17 October), Lawson was invited to lead a Spectator debating team against the magazine's closest American equivalent, the New Yorker, but has declined. One reason for doing so apparently is the status of the American journal. No one in England reads it, says Lawson, which is not something that could be said about his own magazine.
Taking this rebuff on the chin is Richard Cohen, the quixotic publishing director of Hodder & Stoughton who is directing the festival. He tells me he was asked to invite Lawson by the festival's sponsors, the Daily Telegraph (which owns the Spectator). Nevertheless his invitation was given short shrift.
'He (Lawson) replied by stating grandly that no one in England reads the New Yorker whereas everybody reads the Spectator and that, anyway, he would be away covering the world chess championships. Why he should want to cut off his nose like that beats me.'
Lawson, meanwhile, insists no snub was intended. 'I knew the Telegraph was keen for me to do it, but I am consigned to working 20-hour days until mid-November.'
GUINNESS sold well in West Africa some time ago, with this explanation. Its advertising slogan 'Guinness gives you power' is loosely translated there as 'Guinness gives you virility'.
I RECENTLY noted how Elisabeth Hoodless's Paddington train failed to stop at Didcot, leaving her with a pounds 30 taxi fare. Her request for a refund was met by a pounds 5 British Rail voucher, an injustice later put right when a BR man rang me to say Mrs Hoodless would be receiving a cheque (not tokens) for pounds 35.
Excellent. Or so I thought. Mrs Hoodless received her cheque, but was surprised at the accompanying letter. 'From time to time I check a batch of letters to ensure consistency in dealing with the claims,' writes David Mathieson, customer relations manager. 'This is necessary as I have several staff dealing with customer correspondence. Occasionally (my italics), I discover one or two claims that I feel could have been dealt with in a different way. Hence this second letter to you.' Nothing to do with embarrassing newspaper publicity, of course.
INDUSTRIAL correspondent of the Communist Morning Star speaking to incoming general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, John Monks, who is anxious to raise the TUC's profile: 'What you need is a bleeding good strike.'
THE Good Hotel Guide wants to publish letters received in response to the Diary's foreign English summer competition, a wise idea given the quality of entries. The competition closes today, and the jury will be back with its verdict tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a few examples that reached the shortlist.
Japan has some dextrous translators, particularly in hotels. Mrs B J Carter recalls the rules at her accommodation in Tokyo: 'Swindlers dangling with guests around our hotel at night have no relations with us'.
The Chinese also put things rather nicely, and I defy anyone to come up with a more attention-grabbing air safety warning than this one from Tristan Allsop, a passenger on China North West Airlines: 'Due to the igovance of safety many passenger have taken blood lesson before. So please fasten your safety belt properly for your life safe, when planes take off, land and bump.'
But sex almost won the day. Unfortunately, judging by the number of entries, many readers have visited this campsite in the Black Forest. I hope you were all married. A notice warns: 'It is forbidden on our camp site that people of different sex, for instance men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.'
A DAY LIKE THIS
31 August 1837 Ralph Waldo Emerson delivers this speech at Harvard University: 'Perhaps the time is already come when the sluggard intellect of this continent will look from under its iron lids and fill the postponed expectation of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill. Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the learning of other lands, is drawing to a close. The millions that around us are rushing to life, cannot always be fed on the remains of foreign harvests. Events, actions arise that must be sung, that will sing themselves . . . . The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be a university of knowledges. If there be one lesson more than another which should pierce his ear, it is: The world is nothing, the man is all. This confidence in the unsearched might of man belongs, by all motives, by all prophecy, by all preparation, to the American scholar.'