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Valentine's day was, you thought, a time for romance. But no. As far as Channel 4 is concerned, it's all about sex. Sex is about nudity, and nudity is about humiliating yourself. That's why the highlight of Channel 4's 'Love Weekend', on 13 and 14 February, is the The Naked Chat Show, a discussion of 'beauty, body image and desire' in which all the guests will appear nude, in front of a naked audience. It's perhaps not so surprising that 50-odd people have already declined to appear on this extravaganza - among them Ken Russell, Steven Berkoff, D M Thomas, Tara Fitzgerald, Antonia de Sancha, Peter Cook and Germaine Greer (the latter after some vacillation, apparently). Alasdair Gray, the antique but brilliant Scottish novelist and Whitbread prize contender, has also refused, remarking: 'You're scraping the bottom of a very deep barrel'. Ten guests are wanted, five have been signed up: the pornographer Linzi Drew; Fiona Pitt-Kethley, the erotic poet from Hastings; Anne Cummings, the 75-year-old author of The Love Habit and The Love Quest; Cameron Ross, a dancer and choreographer; and Ted Polhemus, a 'popular anthropologist'. Richard Jobson, the show's presenter, informs us that he is still agonising over whether to expose himself - 'I have as many problems about nakedness as, it would seem, do members of the media and the general public.'

A SHORT and anonymous ('Name withheld in terror') letter in this week's issue of Ariel, the BBC staff magazine, praises a cover photograph of John Birt, taken from behind, addressing the troops. 'With your fingers on the pulse of BBC morale you realised that since everyone wants to see the back of John Birt, it would be a good idea to print it.'


Whenever Brent council, in north-west London, struggles to cast off its reputation as 'Britain's barmiest borough', up pop the very independent-minded councillors Poline Nyaga and Nkechi (nee Beryl) Amalu- Johnson to spoil things. On Monday, the main item on the full council meeting agenda was education cuts. But, as we told you last week, a series of rogue motions, courtesy of Mss Amalu-Johnson and Nyaga, also featured - these included proposals to install a resident Imam in the council leader Bob Blackman's office, to rename Harlesden ward 'Harlesden- upon-Paradise (Nirvana)' and, more worrying, a call from Nyaga to legalise female circumcision for African families. In a statement to Monday's meeting, Nyaga attacked a Labour councillor, Ann John, for opposing her motion. Describing Ms John as a 'colonialist missionary', Nyaga said: 'You are circumcised. I personally did the operation on you and councillor Amalu-Johnson was holding your legs. I mutilated you on 6 May 1991 and your wounds are still gaping and bleeding.' Though Ms John tells us she does not know what this lurid tirade meant, it is almost certainly an allusion to Nyaga's and Amalu-Johnson's defection from Labour in May 1991, which handed control of Brent to the Conservatives. And you thought the art of political metaphor- making went out with Winston Churchill.

YES, if you were passing through Ladbroke Grove tube station around midday on 18 January, the rather battered, blondish busker singing old Police hits on the westbound platform was, indeed, Sting. International rock star, multimillionaire and former singer with the Police. He sang six or seven songs, and earned, reports Q magazine, 75p. Though some passengers completely ignored him, one Spanish girl whispered 'Eez Sting]' and fainted.


Now that passive smoking can make you rich, we wondered what other passive activities you could sue for. Passive Walkman-listening (very unpopular, that one); passive scent-wearing; passive food digestion, passive gardening ('when all the neighbours insist on mowing their lawns at once'), passive movie- going (hearing other people synopsise movies they've seen, thus ruining the ending); passive education (having to help with the offspring's homework). But our passive litigation experts were most excited by 'passive voting' - as in David Godfrey's complaint: 'For the past 14 years I've lived under a government of somebody else's choosing'. We shall send him a bottle of Lanson champagne, with advice to treat it carefully. For fear of a passive bottle-opening suit.

A WARNING went out yesterday to Britain's 10,000 Skoda drivers (that many, really) after a report suggesting that the rear wheels could drop off at high speeds. So why worry? After all, as the old joke goes,you can overtake a Skoda by walking a bit faster.


4 February 1613 John Chamberlain writes to Alice Carleton: 'Sir Thomas Bodley died on Thursday. His executors are Sir John Bennet and Master Hackwell, and supervisors over them the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Coke, to each of these last bequeathing a cup of gold of the value of pounds 50, whereas to his brothers he has left very little, and to his brother's sons, who are his heirs and must hold up his house and name, scant anything. But let good nature go, if he had regard of conscience towards his wife's children, by whom he had all his wealth; but in truth he hath dealt hardly with them. And all this for a vainglory and show of good deeds, for he hath given about pounds 7,000 to his library at Oxford, and pounds 200 to Merton College. This and such like makes me know the world as it is, nothing but vanity.'