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IT'S hard to find anyone with deep regrets over William Davis's departure from the chairmanship of the British Tourist Authority (and the English Tourist Board) - least of all Davis himself. The former Punch editor is spanking the Government for drastically cutting funds for the two organisations, and has expressed no desire for his contract to be extended after March. Among the things the new chairman - staff are said to be pinning their hopes, if not their money, on Richard Branson - will need to take in hand is the BTA's foreign advertising, long deplored by British holiday operators. There's much derision in Germany for the latest, rather schmaltzy campaign there under the slogan 'Britain is Great'. One ad sports a picture of a couple strolling beneath a romance-inspiring castle. She carries a parasol - as one must - and the copy runs like this in our translation: 'In her childhood she went to Wonderland with Alice: on this holiday she went with Jens. Her heart leapt with joy like a rabbit. It was as though a good fairy had made three wishes come true: three weeks wandering southern England in their car. They were contentedly happy. The days at Scotney Castle were pure poetry and the hospitality of the British a dream'. . . it goes on (anyway, all Germans know British hospitality is a nightmare and that three weeks spent wandering southern England in a car would mean at least one week trapped on the M25). But it does point out that Britain is cheap: 'And the one pound coins look like chocolate money,' exclaims She. 'Like pennies from heaven (sterntaler),' says Jens.

IT'S THIS diary's honour to record, for the first time ever, a joke by the Prince of Wales. At Lancaster House yesterday he unveiled a bronze bust of the Queen, quipping: 'This is rather like unveiling a mummy.'


Paul Madeley, 'freelance publicist, TV/national press show business consultant, casting agent, personalities found for any occasion', wonders if we might be interested in his 'new client', Carol Thatcher. He faxes through a sales pitch, which, quite frankly, will be as helpful to her journalistic career as the thief who has just made off with her computer, fax machine and telephone. Madeley writes: 'Carol is, for me, an expert on, for instance, a certain CLINTON family - a real mind (sic) of information - just back from her most recent visit to Arkansas. Carol Thatcher, of course, is a journalist by proffession (sic), and has written, reported and even interviewed]' Remarkable talents for a journalist. And a hand-scrawled 'PS' reads: 'Carol is a very cluey skier and quite knowledgable (sic).' Thatcher tells us: 'He did get me to do a TV thing when I was in Ulster, and when I came back from Arkansas after the inauguration he lined up one or two chat show pieces.' But, she adds, the arrangement is 'temporary'. More temporary than Madeley might imagine. 'I haven't seen the letter yet,' she says. We would have faxed it to her, but . . .

IT'S GOOD to hear that the two young designers Antoni and Alison who are suing Giorgio Armani for allegedly pinching one of their designs are doing their best to get their own back. Armani is the proud possessor of a glossy Persian cat, and so A and A have, of course, got their own mangy moggie called . . . Armani. 'We're getting her neutered on Thursday,' says Alison Roberts.


Some people just want to take the fun out of everything. St Valentine's day, a press release announces, 'spells anxiety and stress for a large section of the population', and thus it is now National Impotence Day (it's not wholly surprising to learn that this initiative comes from a private clinic offering treatment for the droop). Next: 1 April is declared National Kill Jeremy Beadle Day by everyone.

WELL, Guildford's not going to forget Virginia Bottomley in a hurry. On her recent visit to the town, the Health Secretary opened an extension to a doctor's surgery, and unveiled - the Surrey Advertiser reports - 'a memorial plague'.


2 February 1918 The Rev Andrew Clark writes in his diary: 'Robert Armstrong, an Australian private, is engaged to Louise Flack. I jot down here some notes of his talk: The Australians are so infuriated at the favourite trick of the Germans in shamming to be wounded, and when they have gone on jumping up and shooting them behind, that they now bayonet the German wounded. He himself has not the heart to do this but carefully disarms them. There is a terrible waste of ammunition at the front. This is largely the fault of the authorities. They insist on the men starting with more ammunition than they can comfortably carry, and the men take the first opportunity to throw part of their burden away. He has seen whole boxes of unused bombs sunk in the mud.'