Diary

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Free speech for all except the other side

CHANNEL 4, tireless campaigner against censorship, took the unusual step of banning one of its own shows last weekend - chiefly, it seems, because it was too kind to the BBC. First Reaction, a 10-minute critics' comment slot on Friday evenings, had invited our own Mark Lawson to review the BBC 1 sitcom One Foot in the Grave. The review was very polite; the show is the most popular comedy on television, which was probably why Waldemar Januszczak, arts editor of Channel 4, had approved doing a piece on it. But, despite the piece being billed in the press, what was broadcast was a different First Reaction, recorded several years ago. Channel 4 subsequently told Lawson and Januszczak that it had decided against publicising a BBC 1 show that occupies the Sunday night slot directly opposite Lipstick on your Collar, the new Dennis Potter serial. Now the channel says the programme has been 'postponed until next week'. Why? 'There was a dispute about the appropriateness of a small advert at the end of the programme and there was not enough time to remove the offending bit.' A senior and interested party at the BBC says: 'We look forward to seeing the programme transmitted in Channel 4's next season of banned programmes.'

SEVENTY-ONE of the 170 staff at the British Tourist Authority and English Tourist Board were liberated from their jobs yesterday, after the Government's decision to cut grants by pounds 6.5m. Sadly William Davis, the outgoing chairman of both organisations, could not be on hand to comfort his staff: he was off to the Bahamas for a two-week holiday.

Lilongwe the long way

'YOUR flying start to a dream destination' is how the Sunday Times describes its generous offer of 500 'Air Miles' to readers. The Air Miles are free - normally you get them from retailers, rather like Green Shield stamps - but they can only be used on flights to the location specified on the vouchers in your paper. So you can imagine the tears that were shed when the 12 vouchers we opened on Sunday offered destinations neither dreamy nor very accessible. Our selection included Lilongwe in Malawi, Lusaka, Osaka and Seoul. Riyadh, the closest of them, would require the reader to collect 5,600 more miles. You could do this by buying 15,500 gallons of petrol from Shell - enough to drive round the world 19 times. Or by spending pounds 56,000 on your Access credit card. Or you could leave the car for 2 1/2 years in an airport car park run by BCP. That last is a tall order, particularly as the Riyadh flight offer is valid only between 1 April and 30 June this year.

MORE information on the home life of our own dear Archbishop of Canterbury emerges from an account in the Tablet of his morning ritual: 'After a quick shower my dog, Buccleuch, and I walk briskly in the garden.'

Time, Gentlemen

AS THE captains of Oxford and Cambridge University announced their crew contenders for next month's Boat Race, old- timers fell to reminiscing about the changes in the event. 'Honest' John Phelps, a finishing judge of the last century, would have had no truck with today's rigorous approach to his job. In 1877 Honest John - so called because of his determinedly casual approach to his task - pronounced a dead heat, but later, after consultation, decided that Cambridge had crossed the line five yards ahead. It emerged that he hadn't even been there to watch the finish. 'He might have gone off to the pub,' says Chris Baillieu, a former Cambridge rower and Olympic medallist. Geoffrey Page, a time-keeper for 30 years, bemoans the modern obsession with statistics. 'There is more pressure than ever to get it right, even though we use a rather antiquated form of timing - flag waving.'

BRITISH Rail has, it's pleasing to record, been ordered to withdraw a television advert for InterCity - the one that trilled 'Every day there's the chance for everyone to see more of our land' - because the service is not available on 25 and 26 December. Now: a judgement, please, on the infamous boast 'We're getting there'.

A DAY LIKE THIS

23 February 1669 Samuel Pepys writes in his diary: 'Up: and to the Office, where all morning, and then home, and put a mouthful of victuals in my mouth: and by a hackney-coach followed my wife and the girls, who are gone by eleven o'clock, thinking to have seen a new play at the Duke of York's House. But I do find them staying at my tailor's, the play being not today, and therefore to Westminster Abbey, and there did see all the tombs very finely, having one with us alone, there being other company to see the tombs, it being Shrove Tuesday; and here we did see, by particular favour, the body of Queen Katherine of Valois; and I had the upper part of her body in my hands, and I did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it that I did kiss a queene, and that this was my birthday, thirty-six years old, that I did kiss a Queene.'

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