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Robin Hood to the rescue

THERE is discomfort at Nottingham's new law school following its high-profile opening last week, where there was, apparently, a 'heated discussion' between the ceremony's main protagonists, Sir David White, chairman of the university's governors, and Rodger Pannone, president of the Law Society of England and Wales.

Sir David, a Nottingham businessman sometimes kindly referred to as a Robin Hood, had invited Mr Pannone to make a speech. However, when he discovered that Mr Pannone's text, reported in Nottingham's Evening Post, would contain highly critical comments of the Chancellor Kenneth Clarke's views on student finance as enunciated in his Budget, he tried, in vain, to persuade Mr Pannone to omit them. This, it seems, led to the speech being delayed by five minutes. A university employee even rang Conservative Central Office with a warning of what was afoot.

Sir David says he knew nothing of this. 'There was a discussion,' he says, 'but that is all.' None the less, staff at the school see his action as a great threat to the freedom of speech: 'If he can do that to the president of the Law Society, what will he do to a mere academic?' said one.

WONDERFUL actor he may be, but watch out if you're buying a house from Michael J Fox. That would be the advice of Michele Ader, a Hollywood production manager, who bought a dollars 750,000 ( pounds 516,000) ranch home from Fox in Los Angeles. Ms Ader is suing him for dollars 245,000 damages, alleging that he failed to repair a leaking roof, deal with a potential termite problem, or replace frost- damaged trees.

Testimony has, however, also provided an intriguing glimpse into that most heavily guarded shrine: the star's bedroom. According to Ms Ader, it contains a free-standing fireplace, bathroom with a four-level tier ceiling, whirlpool bath, and sophisticated security system. And the colour scheme? Industrial grey.

Dorking mystery

WHAT is going on around Dorking? The leafy Surrey town has been rocked by a spate of bizarre thefts. Last week, 17 koi carp disappeared from a pond, the expert rustlers leaving behind one fish languishing under the effects of carp-pox. Citizens are encouraged to look out for 'anyone selling carp suspiciously'.

Fears of a surrealist subversive at work may begin to trouble residents when details emerge of other thefts: a green weather vane from a garden in Capel; pounds 160 worth of chopped firewood from the Wotton Hatch pub; and, to the distress of the organisers, 10 square yards of turf from the site of the Brockham Guy Fawkes bonfire.

Suggestions that these thefts - representing the elements of earth, air, fire and water - may be related to druidic rituals are being treated cautiously by police.

RUM goings-on at all-female Newnham College, Cambridge. After one unnamed student was interrupted in coitus with a young man in one of the college's showers at about 10.30 one morning, a letter was circulated to the four or five students it might have been. The letter asked that undergraduates refrain from copulating in the showers before midday. Loath to discourage such healthy indulgences, however, it suggested helpfully that 'afternoon, evening or night might be more convenient. Or, alternatively, they could just try taking a cold bath.'

Puppy love

'OH WAD some power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as others see us]' wrote Burns, little anticipating that the 'giftie' was in the hands of a far lesser agency: She magazine. The periodical's January issue contains a selection of views of celebrities, among which the Labour member for Redcar, Mo Mowlam, stands out with her view of our most celebrated eminence grise. 'Like an over-affectionate labrador, he wiggles his bottom and wags his tail while licking you rather insistently. While this can be pleasant in a dog, it is unappealing in a Prime Minister . . . .'


10 December 1852 Gustave Flaubert writes to Louise Colet: 'The author's comments (in Uncle Tom's Cabin) irritated me continually. Does one have to make observations about slavery? Depict it: that's enough. That is what has always seemed powerful in (Victor Hugo's) Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamne. No observations concerning the death penalty. Look at The Merchant of Venice and see whether anyone declaims against usury. But the dramatic form has that virtue - eliminating the author. Balzac was not free of this defect: he is legitimist, Catholic, aristocrat. An author in his book must be like God on the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere. Art being a second Nature, the Creator of that Nature must behave similarly. In all its atoms, in all its aspects, let there be sensed a hidden, infinite impassivity. The effect for the spectator must be a kind of amazement. 'How is all that done?' one must ask; and one must feel overwhelmed without knowing why.'