Diary

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Paris inspires a feeling of deja vu

'JE NE regrette rien' runs the headline over one of Panayotis 'Taki' Theodoracopolus's High Life columns in the Spectator: not so the veteran American journalist Robert McCabe, who is demanding an apology for the piece, which he claims bears an uncanny resemblance to one of his own articles for the Paris-based International Herald Tribune.

If this was plagiarism - and the Greek tennis player turned playboy turned writer has not responded to McCabe's request for an explanation - it may be of the type familiar to Jilly Cooper, who admitted inadvertently incorporating bits of Elaine Dundy's The Dud Avocado into her novels Bella and Emily. Whatever the circumstances, McCabe has written to Dominic Lawson, editor of the Spectator, with the assertion: 'I think Taki's muse owes my muse a drink.'

Judge for yourselves, starting with McCabe on his love affair with Paris: 'Forty years ago on a soft spring evening I stepped off the Golden Arrow from London on to the platform at the Gare du Nord and into an alliance with Paris that has not yet ended.' Now Taki: 'It was exactly 35 years ago, on a soft summer evening, that I stepped off a lumbering Dakota at Orly Airport and into a love affair with Paris that has yet to end in tears.'

There follows some nostalgia about 'beautiful women' (McCabe) and 'beautiful buildings, like the women . . .' (Taki); 'yellow headlights' (McCabe) and 'yellow headlights' (Taki); and 'the scent of black tobacco' (McCabe) and 'the black tobacco of my first Gitane' (Taki). McCabe is not talking lawsuits, he tells me, his nose is just out of joint.

STAFF working for BBC Radio's rolling news station, to replace Radio 5, are assessing the credentials of their new boss, Jenny Abramsky, following a meeting in which she sketched out some early thoughts. The timing of the lunchtime bulletins may have to change, she told them, because listeners in the North ate their lunch at noon, not 1pm as in the South. But sport would not be tampered with.

'I'm a great sports fan,' she assured her team. At that, two strangers strolled into the newsroom to be greeted by a 'Who are they?' from the new sports supremo. George Best and Terry Venables must have been in

disguise.

Decision arrived at

SOME London clubs modernise, others go back in time, a notable example of the latter being The Travellers' Club, which has finally bowed to the wishes of its founding committee of 1819 and removed its apostrophe. At its annual general meeting, the club that blackballed Thackeray ruled by a 41 to 38 majority that the club should be known as The Travellers Club.

The change follows years of confusion, where the heading of some club notepapers bore the apostrophed version, while others referred to a truncated The Travellers. The club's chairman, Frank Brenchley, decided to investigate the archives. 'A minute from the meeting on 12 March 1819, when the club first sat, said: 'The name of the club shall be The Travellers Club'.' The narrowness of the margin may have something to do with the somewhat presumptuous note convening the meeting. Its printed heading already contained the new spelling.

WHEN Steven Norris, Minister for Transport, started mentioning the 'sexual interests of this issue' at his first press conference since his amorous peccadillos came to light, pens waggled fast. It was only the sharper of hearing who put down their pens. The minister was actually talking about the 'sectional interests' of the minicab and cab trades.

A trip to Peru

AT THE bequest of the Government, worried about his opposition to the Railways Bill, the Tory MP Gary Waller was instructed to fly to Peru to monitor elections there. But last Wednesday, the Government came up with concessions to pacify rebels such as Waller. Shortly afterwards, the Peru- bound MP received a call from the whips' office. Peru did not need his services after all.

A DAY LIKE THIS

2 November 1922 Siegfried Sassoon writes in his diary: 'The train has just stopped at Pisa. We left Naples at 9 this morning in fine weather; P lost count of the time while he was having his bath, and we had an awful scramble to catch the train. But we caught it; and he left me at 2.15 on the platform in Rome station, when his train to Florence puffed away. I was standing, within a few yards, in the same place where I stood on October 5 last year, when he went away to Venice early on a sunny morning. Our last hours together were tender and tranquil, and he leaves me happy in my knowledge of his affection for me. Let it be understood that I have chronicled my most evanescent moods, and under all those moods flow the dark stream of my love for him, my dear dear P, who has always been so patient with me. (Haven't seen him since] 3 December, 1930 S S)'

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