Diary

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Cambridge Master ducks the issue

THE REGAL Lord St John of Fawsley - he promised to run Emmanuel College, Cambridge, as a 'constitutional monarchy' when he took over as Master in 1991 - has been accused of acting unconstitutionally by his undergraduates. Demanding to know why the four Aylesbury ducks that used to mess about in the college pond are now waddling around on the Master's private estate in Northamptonshire, more than 150 students have signed a petition that was handed in to the Master's Lodge yesterday by the Free the Emmanuel Four Committee.

The ducks, given to the college seven weeks ago, were the subject of a complaint from the chairman of the gardening committee - they were destroying the foliage and eating trees around the pond. However, the customary consultation with members of the gardening committee was apparently bypassed, with the chairman dealing directly with the Master, who dispatched the ducks by van to his estate on Monday. The undergraduates are unimpressed with this unconstitutional behaviour, and even less impressed with the reason given for the expulsion. A note on college noticeboards puts the defence case thus: 'If that is the criterion for expulsion (eating of foliage and trees) from this place, stand up those freshers who demolished most of a bush on matriculation night.'

TWENTY years after stealing a book from the bookshop at Imperial College, London, the conscience-stricken - and anonymous - thief has returned the faded paperback with a banker's draft for dollars 500 which also covers a few pens he stole. 'It was,' he wrote, 'a terrible act and I have to answer for my actions.' And all for a not-so-riveting-sounding book on electromagnetism.

Teenage tantrum?

MARLBOROUGH College, the coeducational public school which has, in the past, been criticised for allowing its pupils too much freedom - noticeably in the sexual relations department - is again at the centre of controversy (and mystery), this time involving the BBC.

In August one of the school's Kenyan pupils appeared in an episode of the BBC 2 series Teenage Diaries and discussed racism in general, and relations between herself and the school in particular.

The girl was said to be delighted with the programme, so it therefore came as a surprise to the producer, Bob Long, and his colleagues that the night before it was due to be repeated, she exercised her right to withdraw the programme.

The school insists that it had nothing to do with the decision: 'I did not even see it - it was between her and the BBC,' says the Master, Edward Gould.

WITH tongues hanging out, British Rail employees - currently forbidden to drink alcohol - will stroll along to the Regent Hotel, London, for a drinks party to launch Railtrack, the organisation that will, from April, own and maintain the railways. I gather the drinks embargo will temporarily be lifted.

A gasping BR man who intends to be there on 16 November was ecstatic at the news. 'The drink and drugs squad are here in force at the moment, and none of us can drink anything stronger than caffeine.'

Brief encounter

AS AN antidote to Baroness Thatcher's memoirs and the reviews thereof, here is a poetical insight on the Thatcher style from

a former adviser, Brian Cox, Professor of English at Manchester University.

'I once held Mrs Thatcher's hand, / briefly. Six dons were asked to lunch. / We vied outside her room to enter last. / I felt a fool to choke with nerves, / so went in first and took her hand, / but as I spoke a gentle tug / propelled me down the room to dock / beside the salmon mousse and hock . . .'

A DAY LIKE THIS

3 November 1907 Paul Leautaud, in Paris, writes in his diary: 'Jarry's funeral. I arrived at the Charite at twenty to three. We assembled in a small separate courtyard. When I arrived, Mirbeau saw me and came over to greet me very cordially. He first asked me if I had seen the body, and I said no. He told me the features had at first been nastily contorted, but today were quite relaxed. I found Vallette. He too asked if I'd seen Jarry, and I again said no. 'Would you like to?' he asked, and I followed him to a sort of lean-to under which the coffin lay. To my surprise when I got closer I found it was still open. For a while I stood gazing at that poor Ubu (Jarry had written Ubu roi). He certainly looked better than when he was alive, looking like a young Christ of the Spanish school, the face quite calm and reposed - the usual expression, as though he was asleep. What a curious thing it is, the varnish death puts on faces.'

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