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High-profile job for a portrait expert

FOR some years, the National Portrait Gallery has been accused of failing to keep pace with modern portraiture, but it now has a chance to bring itself up to date. After '20 years and 20 days' as director, Dr John Hayes, 63, has decided to stand down in January.

The search for his successor could be a long one, because of the shortage of portraiture scholars who are also good administrators. 'People are no longer appointed because they've written a book,' according to Sir Roy Strong, himself a former director of the gallery.

Despite the criticism, Dr Hayes is a hard act to follow. He has been an impressive scholar and fund-raiser, putting on shows ranging from Van Dyck to Sir Thomas Lawrence, and raising pounds 12m for new buildings due to open in November.

The hot money is on Dr Hayes's deputy, Malcolm Rogers, a distinguished scholar who has been waiting patiently in the wings for 19 years. Other possible contenders are Giles Waterfield, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery ('he's done a fantastic job at Dulwich', said one source); and Julius Bryant, director of the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood ('as a respected portraiture man').

I DON'T know if President Bill Clinton ever has time to read the Economist, but I cannot believe some aide didn't put last week's issue on his desk before he decided to bomb Baghdad. Two days before the raid, a leader writer wrote about why Mr Clinton failed to cut a presidential figure. 'The stream- of-consciousness they expect of a friend over coffee is not what they need of their president,' the article said. In short, he talks too much.

But the Economist wasn't entirely negative, and offered two suggestions, one of which I'm sure he took no notice of, and the other, well . . .

The first was to 'go off to the deep woods or the ocean shore, where he can talk without being heard'. The second, and 'best solution of all, for both press and president, would be a military exercise of a bloodless, successful and relatively local sort, such as Teddy Roosevelt's use of the army to wipe out mosquitoes in Panama. The company of soldiers (men of few words) would do Mr Clinton good.'

Pedalling to power WHEN I offered a bottle of champagne to the first reader who could prove that Kenneth Clarke occasionally takes exercise, I was hoping for a recent example. I am not a fussy man however, so I am delighted to send a bottle to Peter McGrath for this not- so-recent photograph (above) of the Chancellor on a bicycle while he was a junior transport minister in 1981.

IT'S probably just the heat, but I do wish peers in the House of Lords would exercise some restraint. Last Wednesday, Lord Hailsham was reprimanded in Hansard for constantly interrupting peers who didn't agree with the Maastricht Bill, or, as the official record put it, 'intervening in a sedentary position in a loud and boisterous way'. Lord Hailsham was once Lord Chancellor, and spent many years trying to prevent similar outbreaks of rowdiness from his position on the Woolsack.

He would, I'm sure, have given short shrift to his Tory colleague, Lady Olga Maitland, who on the day of his own strange behaviour was causing uproar in the Pugin Room. Sipping tea, she let out a piercing scream after two mice scampered under her feet in search of crisps and biscuits.

Despite attempts by Ann Clwyd, the Labour spokeswoman on national heritage, to calm her down, Lady Olga wrote a sharp note in the complaints book, demanding that the catering manager get rid of the mice.

Ms Clwyd defended the mice, however, describing them as a 'rather nice addition to the Pugin Room'. Underneath Lady O's remarks, she suggested that what was needed in the Pugin Room was 'less hysteria'. Hear, hear.


29 June 1914 W N P Barbellion writes in his journal: 'Went to the Albert Hall to a Memorial Concert. We heard the Symphonie Pathetique, Chopin's Funeral March, 'Trauermarsch' from Gotterdammerung, the Ride of the Valkyries and a solemn melody from Bach. This afternoon I regard as a mountain peak in my existence. For two solid hours I sat like an eagle on a rock gazing into infinity - a very fine sensation for a London sparrow. I have an idea that if it were possible to assemble the sick and the suffering day by day in the Albert Hall and keep the Orchestra going all the time, then the constant exposure of sick parts to such heavenly air vibrations would ultimately restore to them the lost rhythm of health. Surely even a single exposure to - say Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - must result on some permanent reconstitution of ourselves body and soul. No one can be quite the same after a Beethoven symphony has streamed through him.'