Diary

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Surely it's just the job for someone

WANTED: a chairman for the Arts Council. The Department of National Heritage has begun the gruelling search for someone to succeed Lord Palumbo, whose period of office expires in just over a year's time. He, it is said, is not eager to extend his five- year stint, which has been marked by four changes of arts minister, and few obvious pleasures. Potential chairmen of the quango have always been a rare breed - Palumbo himself was No 7 on the shortlist to succeed Lord Rees-Mogg - not least because the job is not just thankless, but also unpaid. So the successful candidate must be moneyed, at least passively Conservative, have more experience of the arts than, um, Peter Brooke, be great, be good and so forth. Such as who? Well, Lord Archer's name will definitely go up (and be shot down again); at the Arts Council they're convinced they'll get, Hillary Clinton-style, that renowned opera buff Norma Major, or possibly Prince Edward. More sensible suggestions include Jocelyn Stevens, who should have dealt with another troublesome quango, English Heritage, by next year, or Baroness O'Cathain, managing director of the Barbican Centre. Neither choice would go down well with the arty types. John Drummond, former controller of Radio 3, has made it clear he wouldn't like the job, so who are we left with? Charles Saatchi (a bit Palumboesque, perhaps); Graham Greene, chairman of the Museums and Galleries Commission; or Lord Rothschild, chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Our choice? The rock promoter Harvey Goldsmith, more fun than all of them put together.

SO WHERE was Ted Dexter, chairman of the England cricket selectors, on Monday while his side slumped to humiliating defeat in India? Picking losers at Fontwell races, actually.

Cross-party clubs

AT LEAST the political parties know how to make a penny out of the recession. At least four of the Department of Employment's Job Clubs - where the occupationally challenged meet to compare notes - are on premises owned by the two main parties. Labour is renting out part of its Manchester offices, while the Tories have sold space for four clubs in Manchester, Ellesmere Port and south-east London. Tony Lloyd, a Labour Party employment spokesman, has asked Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Employment, why the Conservatives are seeking to profit from unemployment. (Lloyd explains Labour's involvement as 'pure altruism'.)

THE British Psychological Society meets for its third annual conference in Harrogate next week. We're flying yogically along to the final day's seminar by G D Hatchard of the Maharishi University of Natural Law on 'The effects of transcendental meditation on crime rates'.

Achille's keel

HOLIDAY spot: a glossy brochure advertises a South African cruise aboard the 'newly refurbished' Achille Lauro. The ship is 'a warm and welcoming world reminiscent of the days when service with a smile was a way of life and cruising was the ultimate pleasurable experience . . .' but not reminiscent, we trust, of the old Achille Lauro, where 1985 cruising involved being invaded mid-Med by Palestinian terrorists, and in the case of one American passenger, 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer, being thrown overboard (fatally) in his wheelchair. 'Cruising on the Achille Lauro,' Starlight Cruises writes, 'will spoil you for any other ship.'

MORE news of the 'dream destinations' to which the Sunday Times is trying to send its readers: Judy Lustigman tells us she ripped open the perforation to be offered 500 Air Miles to help her on the way to . . . Tehran.

A DEPARTURE for Hello] this week - instead of the customary dewy-eyed, sycophantic interview with whoever in the privacy of their delightful home, we have a dewy-eyed, sycophantic interview with Dewi Sukarno in the privacy of her delightful prison cell. Sukarno, the widow of the former Indonesian dictator, is serving 60 days in Pitkin County jail, Colorado, for rearranging the face of a fellow jet-setter with a broken glass. But, she explains, she didn't do it. She pleaded guilty because 'I didn't want to become a spectacle to my friends around the world.' They obviously don't read Hello]

A DAY LIKE THIS

24 February 1834 Thomas Creevey writes to his wife: 'I must begin with my cupping first, and it is an operation that I doat upon; the only drawback is that one does not see what is going on. Mr Watkin of Savile Row who has the honour to cup all the nobility and gentry of the West End, arrived at eleven on Saturday night. Mrs Durham was quite ready with her hot water basins and rags, and we were in action in no time. 'Upon my word, Sir' said the insinuating Watkin, 'there is not a young man in all London can produce more beautiful blood than yours.' My notion had been that cupping was a dibbling operation, and was therefore not a little astonsished to hear Watkin observe, 'that makes 22 ounces.' My cough is dying away.'

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