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An appetite for Just William

DAVID TOWNSEND, former political adviser to Lord Ennals and now director of social services in Croydon, has been consulting high- class bakers in the London borough about the feasibility of making replica cakes of the 38 books Richmal Crompton wrote about Townsend's childhood hero, William Brown, the mud-encrusted perpetual 11-year-old who is always getting into scrapes.

For some weeks now, Townsend has been engaged in a war of words in the letters column of the London Review of Books with one of the literary journal's deputy editors, Andrew O'Hagan, and other correspondents, about the moral nature of childhood. Are children essentially, irrevocably cruel or are they innocent and ultimately redeemable?

Townsend, a father of four, takes the latter line, quoting Crompton in their defence. Rashly, however, in a recent letter he offered to eat publicly every single William paperback 'if anyone can demonstrate to me that William acted out of any sense of malice or cruelty'.

Back came a missive from Adrian Bowyer, a lecturer at Bath University, claiming that William once inadvertently shot and killed a cat with an air rifle. Now Townsend is challenging Bowyer to produce chapter and verse on the incident. 'My own library in Croydon cannot find it,' he says. 'I was even asked to move on in Waterstone's the other day. A very nicelady asked me why I had been spending so much time in the children's section reading William books. I said because I might have to eat them and she asked me to leave.

'I cannot believe it. William had soot bombs, water pistols and the occasional catapult, but an air rifle . . . .' Anyway, he adds: 'Thirty- eight slabs of dough, marzipan and icing sugar will go down better than cardboard and paper.'

ON WEDNESDAY night a bomb disposal team detonated a live mine found by a fishing boat outside Ayr Harbour. Seconds later the Royal Geological Society in Edinburgh - some 100 miles away - alerted the Strathclyde police that 'a subterranean earthquake' was on its way.

A butter double

A MAN who describes himself as the world's fastest trombonist, Peter 'Fats' Baxter, of Hove, is alleging that his fast trombone act has been 'borrowed' to advertise a new cheese spread in a television commercial. He claims that the Lurpak ad - which features an animated trombonist made from butter - is an imperfect copy of his act. Instead of playing each note individually or prestissimo, Mr Baxter says, the butter trombonist 'cheats' by sliding the notes together.

Moreover he alleges that the animated trombonist is his double. 'It is a bit much to have the cartoon look like me. It blows out its cheeks and everything,' he says. 'It's not very flattering if it's made out of butter. On Saturday I was playing at the Ship in Brighton and punters were saying 'Do the Lurpak tune'.'

A spokesman for BMP DDB Needham, the advertising company that made the commercial, said yesterday: 'We certainly did not base the character on Mr Baxter - we'd never even heard of him until we got his letter. Actually we're not going to comment as it's in the hands of our solicitors.'

LEWISHAM Council is unflagging in its quest for quality service. Park Direct, its parking enforcement department, has received a British Standards Institution kitemark for its ticketing prowess.

Caught short

SO DESPERATE is the shortage of parliamentary office accommodation that, for the first time, the whips are seriously contemplating offering a senior female MP a berth in a ladies' loo and restroom. Jo Richardson, the 69-year-old Labour member for Barking, who is recovering from a spinal operation, says: 'My current office is simply too far away. I've been asking to be moved since January but nothing has happened. At the moment I have to wait in the car between voting sessions.'

Ray Powell, chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee, says: 'It's just a question of finding space.' The choice, apparently, is between the opposition research centre and what he describes as 'the woman's room'.


23 July 1933 Emily Carr, a Canadian artist, writes in her diary: 'Dreams do come true sometimes. Caravans ran round inside of my head from the time I was no-high and read stories in which gypsies figure. After horses went and motors came in I quit caravan dreaming, engines in no way appealing to me. So I contented myself with shanties for sketching outings, cabins, tents, log huts, houseboats, tool sheds, lighthouses - many strange quarters. Then one day plop] into my very mouth, like a great sugar plum for sweetness, dropped the caravan. There it sat, grey and lumbering like an elephant, by the roadside: 'For Sale'. I looked her over, made an offer, and she is mine. We towed her home in the dark and I sneaked out of bed at 5 next day to make sure she was really true and not just a grey dream. Sure enough, there she sat, her square ugliness bathed in the summer sunshine, and I sang in my heart.'