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John and Jill say no to Richard and Judy

JOHN McCARTHY and Jill Morrell are keeping their heads down as tomorrow's anniversary of his release from captivity in Beirut approaches. They are hiding out 'somewhere in England', according to Chris Pearson, one of the masterminds of the release campaign, and scribbling furiously an account of those five years, to be published next spring. They will not be giving interviews and 'no party is planned', according to Pearson. And they will not, after all, appear on Granada Television's sugary The Richard and Judy Show, despite the implied plug given at the end of last Sunday's edition. The reason is simple: the show, says another friend, 'makes them vomit'. In their seclusion they've evolved a novel literary technique: she writes one chapter, he writes the next. Their agent, Mark Lucas, who negotiated a reported pounds 350,000 advance for the book, says the technique will 'highlight the key moments. They lived in different worlds - there was a man with no choices apart from when should he eat his next bit of pitta bread, and a free woman. It would be very tricky for them to write in the 'we' voice'. Few couples, it seems, choose to write books together. Those who do seem to produce cookery books (don't ask why) - take Antony and Araminta Hippisley-Coxe's timeless A Book of Sausages, or Atarah Ben-Tovin and Douglas Boyd's best-selling The Arthritis Diet Cookbook. Martin Miller, who with his wife, Judith, has spent the last 13 years writing the Antique Price Guides, is most concerned about whether McCarthy and Morrell are 'sitting in separate rooms or gazing at each other across the same table. It's important to have your own space. Writing is a tedious exercise at the best of times. I don't envy them. It must be hell.'

SHOULD the EC intervene in Yugoslavia? A note sent from the Foreign Office to the Ministry of Defence, after a helicopter was shot down last January killing five EC monitors, gives one view: 'Now the EC can really start to clobber the Serbs,' it read. Alan Clark, then a defence minister, now frightening everyone as he pre-publicises his memoirs, appended a thought in green ink: 'Let us hope not because the Serbs would certainly win.'

Long live lunch

WHO said the long advertising lunch was dead? An internal investigation into the activities of Edward Booth-Clibborn during his term as chairman of the cash-strapped Designers' and Art Directors' Association has unearthed a photocopy of a pounds 448 lunch bill for two at Le Gavroche. This includes two and a half bottles of wine - the half bottle cost pounds 126. Booth-Clibborn charged the lunch against 'PR' (personal relaxation? profligate romps?), reports the trade journal Campaign this week.

FROM Paris, hot new street slang. A particularly bad haircut can be referred to as a Minister for Fun. As in 'Beuh] C'est un vrai Dahvid Melleur]'

Lamont on video

FURTHER detail emerges of the extraordinary apparition of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, hitherto presumed as lost as the economic recovery, on an Ipswich to London train on Wednesday morning. On Monday, two Suffolk-based readers report, Mr and Mrs Lamont were to be seen in the nave of Blythburgh Church, near Southwold, Suffolk. They offer video and photographic evidence that 'he was not as taken by the beauty of the entombing stones as she'. Norman Lamont MP has also turned up dead and buried in the east cloister of Wells Cathedral in Somerset. Not a great deal is known about the former member for Wells, except that he was the second son of Lord John Lamont of Lamont in Argyllshire and that he died on 27 April 1834, aged 53. His elusive namesake, by the way, is a direct descendant.

THE news that Martin Amis, master of the smash metaphor, king of the drop epithet, is to be tennis correspondent of Tina Brown's New Yorker prompts many questions. You can help us with one. Provide, please, an example of a Martin Amis tennis report (no more than 100 words) and we might well reward you with Lanson champagne.


7 August 1778 Gilbert White records in his journal: 'Kites and buzzards sail round in circles with wings extended and motionless. The kestrel, or windhover, has a peculiar mode of hanging in the air in one place, his wings all the while being briskly agitated. Hen-harriers fly low over heaths and fields of corn, and beat the ground regularly like a pointer or a setting-dog. There is a peculiarity belonging to ravens that must draw the attention even of the most incurious - they spend all their leisure time in striking and cuffing each other on the wing in a kind of playful skirmish; and when they move from one place to another, frequently turn on their backs with a loud croak, and seem to be falling to the ground. When this odd gesture betides them, they are scratching themselves with one foot, and thus lose the centre of gravity.'