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The Independent Online
Losers in another Christ Church

IT IS not only events in Christchurch, Dorset, that are causing feelings to run high. Christ Church, one of Oxford's wealthiest colleges, has provoked an outcry by imposing rent increases of up to 60 per cent on many houses it owns in the city. One 89-year-old widow says she will have to leave the house she has lived in for 31 years because she cannot afford a pounds 15 a week increase. Another tenant, Margaret Green, 63, cannot afford to pay her bills since her rent has been doubled.

In a letter to tenants, the college said it wanted to put rents up by 25 per cent, but that Oxfordshire's chief rent officer, David Roberts, had decided on more. It neglected to mention that it had in fact asked Roberts to decide the rents it could charge and that it retained the right to reject his advice. In the event, it accepted his recommendation. Richard Benthall, the college treasurer, says: 'The rent officer has no axe to grind for us - he has been increasing the levels of rents in the city generally. We have been charging below market rents for years.'

'Christ Church are clearly hiding behind the rent officer,' the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor John Power, says. 'They ought to be looking after tenants who have been in their properties for a long time.' The rent increases have not been prompted by any shortfall in college funds - in 1991-92 Christ Church's income was some pounds 6.5m, of which pounds 4m came from land, property and investments.

WHEN Arsenal beat Orlando Pirates 1-0 in the second match of their South African soccer safari in Soweto on Wednesday night, a 65,000 crowd saw Alan Smith, the England striker, score a 71st-minute winner after beating the goalkeeper, Ivan Simunic, a refugee from Bosnia. Simunic, who joined the Soweto club last year, is perhaps the first person in history to choose Soweto as a safe haven.

Icke gets stoned

REST EASY. Stonehenge has been revitalised. On Monday night, David Icke and a band of 15 other believers 'channelled energy' into the ancient stones at midnight. 'I felt like I had plugged into a nuclear power station - it was a thousand times more powerful than anything I have experienced before,' Icke says. 'Stonehenge is now reactivated. Its power had got a bit run down.' After 'plugging in', Icke says that residents in the Alton Barnes area of Wiltshire saw their clocks go back by an hour, their TV video timers go haywire and a burst of light in the sky. One local who can testify to the supernatural pyrotechnics, according to the self-styled prophet, is Reg Presley, lead singer of the Sixties pop group the Troggs, who lives nearby.

MARLON BRANDO is not having an easy time compiling his memoirs for American publishers, Random House; he is suffering from severe memory block. According to a report in the New York Post the other day, he became so desperate that he rang Ursula Andress at 6.30am and inquired, in a rather tactless fashion, if she could help him. 'Did we ever have an affair?' he asked. Not surprisingly, she hung up.

White House affair

SOCKS, America's First Cat, who is so popular that he currently receives 50 fan letters a day, has found a friend among his own kind - not, it should be stressed, an entirely suitable friend, but an alley cat whose gender, for the moment, remains a mystery.

The cat - a gingerish sort of creature - has been prowling round the White House for some days now and no attempts have been made to stop the increasingly close relationship it is building up with Socks. 'They seem to be inseparable,' says one observer of the situation. 'There's no danger of the emergence of any little Socks though - he was neutered a while ago.'

IN A BID to 'demystify' the local council, Lewisham residents are being invited to pop along to Sedgehill School in Catford tomorrow morning to sample some of the council's ethnically diverse meals on wheels - Caribbean steamed cod, mutton curry and lentil roast are among the dishes on offer. Previous get-to-know-your-council opportunities have included a guided tour of the borough by school bus and the chance to clean out a pond in Blackheath.

A DAY LIKE THIS

30 July 1918 Alan Lascelles, a cavalry officer, writes to his uncle from France: 'After the hectic days of March and April, when I saw quite enough of this infernal war to last me the rest of my days, we came to anchor, a good deal battered but with a vastly enhanced reputation. There is no longer the uneasy feeling which one had for so long, that we were, perhaps, only cumberers of the ground. Everybody, I think, be he gunner, infantryman or aviator, admits now that in those touch-and-go days in March, the cavalry proved itself not only invaluable, but indispensable. We are no longer anachronisms. From the unpleasant doubt that we might be only unfashionable claret, likely to be poured down the sink at any moment, we have passed to the certainty that we are '34 port, very precious on great occasions, that the great occasions only come rarely is an accident not of our making.'

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