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'Dockers' taste the high life

LAST YEAR the London Docklands Development Corporation sold the ill-starred area to sceptics with the line: 'Are you a knocker or a docker?' This year it is trying a less antagonistic approach; for example, with last week's lavish beano at a European property exhibition in Cannes. The chairman, Michael Pickard, and chief executive, Eric Sorensen, gave lunches and dinners at the Majestic, one of the town's five-star hotels. And there was a luxury yacht hired and moored in the harbour on the Sunday. 'It was a very hard-working weekend,' explains a corporation spokestype. 'It wasn't at all plush.' A description that barely accords with the account one visitor gave us: 'We went to the Majestic where there were the most fantastic foods - two sorts of salmon, great big langoustines, fantastic rose, lavish-looking lamb for the main course and the most superb sweets. The Docklands people were really making the most of the occasion. Who can blame them? I had a great time. God knows how much it cost.' The corporation wouldn't be drawn on this point, although it did say a number of businesses were now planning to visit Docklands - no doubt attracted by the offer of a free night at the Britannia International Hotel on the Isle of Dogs. Plus guided tour.

SANDWICHED between works by John Bratby and Sir Cecil Beaton in yesterday's Bonhams sale of modern and contemporary art: A Landscape with Tree and House, wax crayon, signed, 8 x 11 1/2 in. Artist: Ronnie Kray. Sold privately for pounds 260.

At home in the Range

MORE on 'poor' John Birt. His company Range Rover, you'll remember, has been holed up for two weeks at the BBC's Kendal Avenue depot in west London, reportedly because he did not want newspapers photographing it - understandably, since the car is the Vogue SE model, with leather interior, air-conditioning and 'electric seats'. Top of the range - and costing more than pounds 35,000. (Why, incidentally, do people other than farmers and big game hunters need to drive these things? Birt, reportedly, developed the taste for Range Rovers while motoring up the corporate peaks of London Weekend Television.) Anyway, our report of this has raised eyebrows among senior BBC executives. To their knowledge, it is a firm rule that nobody on the BBC board of management, of which Birt is head, may have a car costing more than pounds 20,000. As ever, the corporation refused yesterday to 'discuss details of contracts'.

BUSINESS opportunities section. In the Journal of the European Communities, the City of Newcastle upon Tyne requests the submission of tenders for the job of taking coals to various addresses in Newcastle.

Mission impossible?

KATHERINE WADE, the president-elect of the Oxford Union, recently wrote to Dick Caborn MP, chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Trade and Industry, asking if he would represent the Government against Michael Foot in a Union debate on the economy. To which Caborn replied smartly: 'I am still a Labour MP, and I am certainly not prepared to defend the indefensible in the form of the Government's economic policy.' Ms Wade has written back apologising profusely for this 'confusion on my database', and remarking: 'I have written about 50 letters to members of the Government and have yet to find anyone to defend the Government's economic policy. . . .'

IN A bid to be first with the news arising from yesterday's meeting of the BBC governors at Bush House, BBC Television asked the World Service if it could erect a television aerial on the top of the building. Permission, however, was tersely refused . . . on security grounds.

Envoys in the swim

AND NOW, news of the swimming pools that do such sterling service for British interests abroad. Anthony Steen, the Tory MP for South Hams, has been asking Alastair Goodlad, the Foreign Office minister, whether there are enough of these. Goodlad revealed that our embassies and missions can muster 135 pools. In 26 posts there are two pools, one for ordinary staff and the other for 'representational use' by the head of the post. There are, by the way, 81 tennis courts.


19 March 1917 Siegfried Sassoon writes in his diary: 'This morning came the evil news from the trenches - first that 'Tracker' Richardson had died of wounds after being knocked over by a shell last night in front of the trenches; this was bad. But they came afterwards and told me that my little Tommy (Lieutenant David Thomas) had been hit by a stray bullet and died last night. When last I saw him, two nights ago, he had his notebook in his hand, reading my last poem. And I said good-night to him, in the moonlit trenches. Had I but known] - the old, human, weak cry. Now he comes back to me in memories, like an angel, with the light in his yellow hair, and I think of him at Cambridge last August when we lived together four weeks in Pembroke College in rooms where the previous occupant's name, Paradise, was written above the door.'