Diary

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RACE TO FIND THE REAL MR CONNOLLY

TWO decades after his death, there is at last to be an 'authorised' biography of Cyril Connolly. Deirdre Levi, Connolly's third and last wife, has long resisted attempts to biographise the great wit and litterateur, saying she thought it wrong that the job be done while so many of his friends and contemporaries remained alive. Doubtless the two autobiographical books produced by Connolly's second wife, Barbara Skelton, which did not flatter him, also put Mrs Levi off having anyone dig deeper. But the news that Clive Fisher - whose biography of Noel Coward was a shocker - is pressing on regardless with a book for the publishers Macmillan has inspired Mrs Levi at last to authorise Jeremy Lewis, deputy editor of the London Magazine, to do Connolly. Jonathan Cape will publish it in August 1995, at least a year after Fisher's. Yet Fisher will find things difficult. Sir Stephen Spender, one of Connolly's last surviving friends, tells us: 'I did talk to him but without knowing that he did not have Deirdre's permission. When I found out I refused a second interview.' Sir Stephen is a good source - he was Connolly's deputy on Horizon magazine, and remembers much. Recently he revealed one lost Connollyism (to illustrate the man's 'peculiar melancholy lovelornness'): 'I shall never believe in women again: I have been perfectly faithful to two women for two years, and now both of them have been unfaithful to me.' Connolly's pleasure at all this attention would have been tempered by his celebrated self-deprecation. In his mid-thirties he wrote, if not an autobiography, an epitaph: 'At Eton with Orwell, at Oxford with Waugh,/ He was nobody afterwards, and nothing before.'

MARGINALLY more opportunist than the man who marketed butter on the back of Last Tango in Paris is the manager of the UCI cinema in Merry Hill, near Birmingham. Keen to exploit the obvious potential of Francis Ford Coppola's film Dracula, he has set up a stall in the foyer promoting the local blood transfusion service.

EXCEPTIONAL ADVICE

Mr Unpopular at the Department of Transport is one Jack Mills, 73, of Newent in Gloucestershire, who, after careful examination of the legislative details at the back of the smart new Highway Code, thinks he may have spotted an error. In a section called 'Driving at night', it says: 'You must use headlights at night on all roads except where the street lights are more than 185 metres (600ft) apart.' The sharp-eyed among you, or, at any rate, those with as much spare time as Mr Mills evidently has, will already have noticed the rogue 'except'. 'I was just leafing through it and was horrified to find a mistake,' explains Mr Mills. The DoT was cool yesterday: 'We will have the mistake corrected in later editions.'

RECEIVING a tax demand can have a certain piquancy if it comes from South Yorkshire. The offices of the Inland Revenue in Barnsley are situated in Joseph Locke House. But the Barnsley Joseph Locke was not the celebrated tenor and tax evader, subject of the recent film Hear My Song, but a local engineer (1805-1860) of unimpeachable moral worth.

NO PLANS TO SMILE

Very pleased to get a 'dummy' issue of OK], the exciting British magazine that will launch next month in the hope of taking readers from (the Spanish-owned) Hello]. It doesn't look very different - big, glossy and cringe-makingly nice. The dummy has a spread of photos, for instance, of the Prince and Princess of Wales showing their teeth (separately), with these lines: 'After the heartbreak of their separation, the Prince and Princess of Wales are determined to face the future with a smile, as these recent pictures show.' But can this be true? Our sources tell us that if there is a smile initiative - which they doubt - it has not been formally discussed between Buckingham Palace, Highgrove and Kensington Palace. They further suggest that the fact that Charles and Diana have both smiled in public during 1993 may be unplanned and entirely coincidental.

A DAY LIKE THIS

16 February 1918 Cynthia Asquith writes in her journal: 'Dined with Alex at Queen's - whitebait, soup and macaroni. Just as we had finished dinner, the waiters announced 'Air raid warning' and, sure enough, we heard whistles and 'maroons'. We walked home to Cadogan Square through streets already emptied save for a few bustling people. We sat in a fireless room. The guns lasted a very short time. There was one loud noise which Alex announced to be a bomb - we afterwards heard it had fallen on Chelsea, killing an officer, his wife and three children and breaking all the windows in the Chelsea barracks. I read Sir Thomas Browne's Urne Buriall aloud through the barrage. After a long silence, a man passed along the street, wailing 'All clear . . . all clear' - a curious new street cry.'

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