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IT is one of the ironies of the (maritally challenged) Prince and Princess of Wales's troubles that for four years Diana has been patron of Relate - the organisation you once knew as the Marriage Guidance Council. Indeed, she made a speech at the charity's 'Family of the Year' lunch in March, which now seems heavy with deeper meaning: 'For too many a happy family remains a missed opportunity. For many the sparkle has gone; others only become aware of what they really wanted when it's too late.' The Princess works very hard for Relate - she will be visiting three of its counselling centres in the next couple of months: on such visits in the past she has sat in on sessions with fractured couples. Relate made certain undertakings when the Princess took on the post - this has meant the organisation has had to refuse, with regret, all media requests for a Relate view of this year's most publicly distressed marriage. But now, we gather, she is planning to do the right thing by the charity. It will soon be able to announce the Princess of Wales speaking - on relationships, presumably - at the Relate annual general meeting in early October.

FIRST there were grunts, now there are gobs. Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Cash all spit liberally over Wimbledon. Fred Perry, Wimbledon singles champion in 1934, '35 and '36, finds it disgusting. 'No one ever behaved like that when I was playing. The captain looked after the money and what he said went. Nowadays it's much more of an individual's game. It's a different era. Back then you weren't allowed to watch without a collar and a tie. Nowadays, well . . . I saw Pat Cash blowing his nose on court the other day. I try to turn a blind eye.'


An atmosphere of quiet desperation pervaded the opening of Harrods' sale yesterday. 'Where are they?' mouthed a besuited shop assistant. 'Don't worry,' replied an optimistic colleague. 'They always start at Soft Furnishings. They'll be up here later.' Soft Furnishings, however, was empty. So where were they? Not in the piano department, where a pounds 75,000 Bosendorfer grand piano languished unwanted. 'It's the world's most expensive piano,' admitted its guardian. 'We've had it for a year now. One man was interested but pulled out. Fortunately for us, it's sale or return.' On the ground floor, one brave customer picked her way through David Morris jewellery. A proud shop assistant explained: 'This watch (encrusted with diamonds and rubies) usually costs pounds 137,000. It's half price today. And these earrings (similarly adorned) usually cost pounds 167,000. They're half price, too. You could easily spend half a million here without thinking.'

EVER wondered why policemen carry pencils? Well, not to take down quotes from witnesses. Student constables at a course in Devizes were recently (so we are informed by Police magazine) told the best way to persuade a rottweiler to loosen its grip on someone is to jam an HB pencil up its rear.


The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali, is in London for talks with John Major today, and once again the BBC and ITN will insult him. In news bulletins both organisations habitually drop a Boutros - doubtless thinking the Secretary-General is simply being pretentious. But he is not. Boutros Ghali is a surname, like Lloyd Webber; the result of intermarriage between two upper Egyptian Coptic families in the late 18th century. And the first Boutros (Coptic for Peter) is an ordinary Christian name used by the Secretary-General according to the Coptic practice of taking one's father's or grandfather's surname as a first name. Ghali, incidentally, is Coptic for precious. Thus in English the Secretary-General's name means Peter Peter Precious, or Peter, Peter the Precious.

ROGER MILLA, the Cameroon football star, is trying to set up a charity game between teams made up of two threatened African races - Cameroon's pygmies and South Africa's bushmen. Let's hope it's better organised than a match he arranged last month; not only were the pygmy players not given enough to eat, they spent much of their time locked in the stadium basement.


2 July 1962 Noel Coward writes in his journal: 'I have read the Oscar Wilde letters and have come to the reluctant conclusion that he was one of the silliest, most conceited and unattractive characters that ever existed. His love letters to Lord Alfred Douglas are humourless, affected and embarrassing, and his crawling letter from prison to the Home Secretary beneath contempt. De Profundis is one long wail of self-pity. It is extraordinary indeed that such a posing, artificial old queen should have written one of the greatest comedies in the English language. In my opinion it was the only thing of the least importance that he did write.'