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Going ape over a lost speech

AS ALL parliamentary observers will know, the MP seconding the loyal address in the House of Commons following the Queen's Speech is traditionally bound to talk about his constituency. Nicely, of course. However, things could change today, when Peter Thurnham, the Tory MP for Bolton North East, rises to address the House. Until yesterday afternoon, when it was retrieved from the bottom of a wheely-bin, Thurnham was speechless - his draft having been stolen from his car while he was addressing a school in his constituency.

This is what he told me about the incident: 'My daughter and her husband are going to study gorillas in Uganda . . . yet it is obvious that to study gorilla-like behaviour they need only stay on the streets of Bolton. In my speech, I will certainly be addressing the need for more law and order in my constituency.'

Not only will that not win him votes at the next election, but Withins School, Bolton - he was attending the school's prize-giving when the thief smashed his car window and stole the bag containing his speech - is also unlikely to ask him back. Still prickling over the affair, Thurnham helpfully informed me that this school had the highest truancy figures of all those published yesterday.

WHEN selling a castle, or a large country house, you might advertise in Country Life, say, or take out a full-page advertisement or two in the national press. Not so the owners of the Danish island of Bornholm, who are looking to sell the island the size of Singapore but appear not to have the funds for the advertising campaign. Which is strange. Inserting a small advert in Tuesday's International Herald Tribune, the owners are looking for dollars 1bn.

In all the best homes

BEFORE revoking two guilty verdicts delivered yesterday by an Old Bailey jury in the case of Michael Smith, an electronics engineer who had been charged with spying for the Russians, Mr Justice Blofeld lightened the atmosphere somewhat, amusing at least one of the jurors.

In his summing up, the judge said that when Smith received a telephone call from the British secret services, on a Sunday morning just before his arrest, Smith had said he was making love with his wife. Nothing unusual in that, said His Honour, it's the sort of thing that happens in thousands of homes all over the country on Sunday mornings.

An inexplicable 15 years after Punch carried the cartoon of a frog- turned-prince who discovered he had forgotten how to swim, Princess Michael of Kent asked the cartoonist Mike Williams whether he would send her a copy as a present for her husband (whose ability, or inability, to swim is presumably a family joke). While the inmates of Kensington Palace hold their sides with mirth at the thought of the hapless Prince Michael, the health minister Dr Brian Mawhinney is not so amused. Attending the annual dinner of the Royal College of Pathologists at Lincoln's Inn last night, Mawhinney was presented with a copy of the cartoon by the royal college's president, Professor Peter Lachmann, whose speech was critical of the health reforms. The caption, 'It's a great pity really, because as a frog he was really a terrific swimmer', had been replaced by: 'Not every change that seems a good idea at the time works out well in the end.'


18 November 1906 Proust writes to Bertrand de Fenelon: 'For a long time I've wanted to thank you for your charming post-card from Gottingen, which gave me great pleasure. And there is a great deal I could say to you about it - the charm with which you can talk about cities like this one, like Veere, like Delft, is so rare that I found myself thinking this: if I had more talent, more life, more time, if I were a better friend, I would do with these really exquisite post-cards what Saint-Beuve did for the outstanding personalities of his time who without him would be forgotten, since they never wrote anything but those letters of a superior quality which need to be linked and interpreted and are nowhere recorded. As you know, the desire to travel and the impossibility of doing so are always with me. So each letter I receive from places I should like to see gives me a sense of poetry by setting my imagination in motion.'