Diary

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IT'S THE WAY BA MAKES PEOPLE FEEL

Virgin just loves to rub British Airways' nose in it. In the aftermath of its legal humiliation, the 'world's favourite airline' has cancelled its current ad campaign; meanwhile, Virgin has snapped up the poster sites in central London that BA had reserved, to mount a campaign with the slogan: 'Airline of the Year (even the toughest judges give us awards) . . .' But BA is perhaps wise to lay off trumpeting its virtues for the moment. One slogan - 'It's the way we make you feel that makes people fly British Airways' - has caused particular annoyance since BA swallowed Dan Air. David Milsted, of Portree, Skye has written on behalf of all Highlanders attempting to fly from Inverness to London. 'In our case,' he snorts, 'what makes us fly British Airways is the fact that they bought up and closed down Dan Air's operation from Inverness to Gatwick.' Travellers must now fly BA to Heathrow or take the train or coach. And the way that makes them feel is pretty sore.

THE UNITED STATES is 'the world's oldest democracy'? Sorry, Bill, but you made a foreign policy boo-boo within a few seconds of being inaugurated. 'We don't want to put anybody down,' Iceland's ambassador to Britain, Helgi Agustsson, told us yesterday, 'but we are very proud of the fact that Iceland's parliament, the Althing, was established in 930 and is the oldest in the world.'

OPEN OR SHUT CASE

Will Barts close? There were conflicting signals yesterday over the future of St Bartholomew's Hospital in London: the Duke of Gloucester opened a pounds 15m operating theatre complex there, but the health minister, Dr Brian Mawhinney, who was at Barts to discuss closure under the Tomlinson report, couldn't make the ceremony ('diary pressures'). The John Abernethy Theatre Suite may be strangled shortly after birth, but, nine years in the building, it is one of the world's smartest ('state of the art,' says the hospital). One guest in a mildly awkward position at the theatre opening was the chairman of North-East Thames regional health authority, Sir William Staveley. His authority has met half of the costs, yet it remains an enthusiastic supporter of Tomlinson's closure proposal. Sir William, it should be added, is a former chairman of the Royal London Hospital Trust, which would gain most from Barts' closure and any subsequent merger. The prospect of merging with a lesser hospital horrifies Barts staff, whose snootiness is celebrated in medical circles with the joke: 'You can tell a Barts man, because you can't tell him anything.'

YOU REALLY have to pity those poor Kuwaitis, who really have had the most uncomfortable time over the last couple of years. And you can understand the 'grumbling' with which Kuwait City golfers greeted the arrival yesterday of eight US army Patriot missile launchers in the middle of their course - it's a Golf Crisis.

STICKY QUESTIONS

Our legislators in action (bits you might have missed). From Hansard comes this exchange during questions on dangerous toys on Wednesday. Michael Brown (Conservative, Brigg and Cleethorpes) to Edward Leigh, Under-Secretary of State for Technology: 'I have a very great interest in receiving a successful answer to my question as I am a purchaser of toys for my god- daughter - his daughter.' Mr Leigh: 'If my Honourable Friend were to attempt to buy for my daughter anything called Splat Balls, Splat Eggs, Splat Tomatoes, Slime Balls, Sticky Balls, Tacky Wacky Wall Rollers, Spike Balls, Sticky Flying Hammers, Hand Hammer Sticky Catchers, Sticky Hand, Sticky Flicker or Sticky Troll, that would be illegal under consumer protection legislation.' The Labour MP Nigel Griffiths then interrupted Mr Leigh, who, excited, said: 'The Honourable Gentleman is, of course, a slime ball and should get his tacky hands off . . .' for which he was mildly reprimanded by Madam Speaker. Nice to see they're keeping busy, isn't it?

SO WHAT do they do with old presidents? Well, yesterday a grocery shop in Finsbury Park, north London, had a sign reading 'Bush meat sold here'.

A DAY LIKE THIS

22 January 1838 Thomas Moore writes in his journal: 'Breakfasted at Monckton Milnes, and met a remarkable party, consisting of Savage Landor and Carlyle (neither of whom I had ever seen before), Robinson, Rogers and Rice. A good deal of conversation between Robinson and Carlyle about German authors, of whom I knew nothing, nor (from what they paraded of them) felt that I had lost much by my ignorance. Savage Landor a very different sort of person from what I had expected to find him; I found him all the air and laugh of a country gentleman, a gros rejoui; and whereas his writings had given me rather a disrelish to the man, I shall take more readily now to his writings from having seen the man.'

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