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The 'TOP 20 quite young British novelists' wheeze from Granta, the literary magazine, is not getting the greatest reception. Panned, predictably, by the stuffier sort of literary critic ('Where's the Trollope? Where's the Dickens?'), it now emerges that some of the exalted novelists themselves are less than happy. Particularly disgruntled is Esther Freud, 29 (great-granddaughter of Sigmund, since you ask). When she was requested to provide a sample of her new writing for the magazine's forthcoming special edition on the bright young things, she supplied a passage from the novel on which she is now at work. 'It doesn't work as an extract,' was Granta's gruff reply. A few weeks later a set of printers' proofs dropped through Freud's door. To her surprise, Granta had chosen a section from her novel Peerless Flats, which was published last month. Not only had they cut out sentences, in a few cases they had even had the cheek to insert adjectives. An irate Freud threatened to withdraw from the edition, which could have been embarrassing - 'Britain's top 19 novelists' doesn't have the same ring. Eventually Granta excised the adjectives and restored the sentences and all was forgiven. 'We were trying to make each extract self-contained, with a beginning, middle and end,' Bill Buford, the magazine's editor, says somewhat sheepishly. 'If we did tamper with her work unduly, then I admit that wasn't very smart.'

GREETINGS card manufacturers are rubbing their hands: Mother's Day this Sunday is set to be the most lucrative ever. Sale of 'We Love You, Mum' cards is already up 7 per cent on five years ago - pounds 27m was spent on 31 million of the things last year. Why the increase? Family break-ups, apparently. Britain's biggest card manufacturer, Fine Art Developments (there's a name to conjure with), says gleefully: 'Children are having to buy one card for their natural mother and one for their stepmother.'


Does the European Community have a cloak-and-dagger section? Suspicions were raised in Brussels yesterday when an official remarked that the EC had spent 'many man- hours' tracking down information on the US defence budget, which was hidden behind an 'iron curtain' of secrecy. When pressed, the official said that the open information culture in the US meant most things could be discovered; and he admitted that the EC uses lawyers and consultants to weasel out the truth. But does the information gathering go any further? One EC official said that the commission has 'friends we can rely on' - 'friends' is a traditional euphemism for MI6, Britain's external intelligence agency. Next: a poisoned umbrella attack on Bill Cash MP.

REPORTERS doorstepping Norman Lamont at Broadcasting House yesterday morning were intrigued to see his chauffeur sorting through some music cassettes for a song with which to entertain the Chancellor when he emerged. His choice? Dire Straits' 'Money For Nothing'.


Folkestone police have a clever new idea for solving crimes - a 'Squeal for a Meal' scheme. This gives criminal types who inform on their mates a free meal at a posh London restaurant and a pair of West End show tickets. Or as Detective Sergeant Larry Thompson told us yesterday: 'Well, basically, we were trying to encourage a certain class of people to squeal on friends and associates for information leading to the arrest of an offender.' What you do is ring the squeal-line - 0303 245700 - grass a bit, and have your name entered for a prize draw at the end of the month. And how has it gone? 'We are very disappointed by the level of help from the public in this town. You would have thought 'Squeal for a Meal' would have tempted somebody but it hasn't. We can't understand it,' DS Thompson says.

THE Scotsman yesterday carried a report of proceedings in the Perth Sheriff Court: 'A former curator of the Scottish Tartans Society's museum encouraged junior members to be 'true Scotsmen' by wearing nothing under their kilts. Then he took indecent photographs of some of them.' Enough said.

WHAT can be behind the mysterious theft of 10 tons of the hair dye Grecian 2000 from a warehouse in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, this week? Well, Paul Daniels and Cilla Black both live near by.


18 March 1550 Edward VI, aged 13, writes in his chronicle of his vehement Protestantism in the treatment of his sister: 'The Lady Mary my sister came to me to Westminster, where after salutations she was called with my counsel into a chamber, where was declared how long I had suffered her Mass against my will in hope of her reconciliation, and how now, being no hope, which I perceived by her letters, I could not bear it. She answered that her soul was God's and her faith she would not change, nor dissemble her opinion with contrary doings. It was said I constrained not her faith, but willed her as a subject to obey. And that her example might breed much inconvenience.'