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AMONG the belongings of John Arlott that are to be sold at Christie's next month is a sheaf of correspondence between the cricket-commentating wine- lover and the South African- born England cricketer Basil D'Oliveira, dating from 1959 and 1960. D'Oliveira, as a 'Cape Coloured', had no chance of playing first-class cricket at home. Hoping that Arlott, already an influential cricket writer, could pull the necessary strings, he bombarded him with letters (written, incidentally, in florid green ink). Here's a sample: 'I suppose you will be infuriated with me for writing yet another letter to you . . . I would therefore once again try to appeal to you Mr Arlott to see whether there is any hope of you assisting me.' Arlott enlisted the help of John Kay, a journalist on the Manchester Evening News, who was on the selection committee for a Lancashire club, Middleton. 'The trip to him means more than money,' Arlott wrote to Kay. The persuasion worked, and in January 1960 Middleton offered D'Oliveira a place. When he arrived in England D'Oliveira 'could not get over' the fact that he was 'allowed to eat and travel with white people', Kay wrote. The last letter is from D'Oliveira, describing the cheering crowds when he returned to South Africa: 'The 'Boers' were aghast that a darkie could get such an ovation . . . this and the opening created now for our coloured cricketers is all due to your efforts, for which I and all South African non-white cricketers will always be grateful.' Brian Johnston agrees: 'It was a fairy tale. 'Dolly' was a beautiful player, and always good at a party. A great man.'

OF COURSE it was John Arlott who, after the lunch interval one June day, controversially informed radio listeners that it was snowing at Lords. Yesterday a brief flurry of snow was reported at Rochester in Kent. Questioned on the matter, a Met Office spokesman said: 'I understand that it was very cold at the time.'


Jani Allan's mother (by adoption) has at last pronounced on the libel case of the summer. In an interview with the Citizen, a Johannesburg daily, Janet Fry seemed relaxed about her daughter's pounds 300,000 costs bill: 'Jani's going to do well. No matter what she writes, it will sell like hot cakes. Her book White Sunset (on right-wing groups in South Africa) will go like Mein Kampf.' On Allan's claim only ever to have slept with her ex- husband: 'That's precious little sex to have had at the age of 41. If it's so, then she's missed a lot in life. Some women have two partners a night.' And on Eugene Terre-Blanche's sense of style: 'Can you imagine a man with very blue eyes and a fair complexion wearing green underpants? It just does not go]'


The news that the International Ornithological Congress is to consider renaming the grouse the 'willow ptarmigan' (an idea not related to the ethnic cleansing operation currently being mounted on the grouse moors of Britain) has, it appears, not gone unnoticed in Scotland. The above is a miniature of a 40 per cent proof blend discovered (and consumed) by a reader in Inverness.

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A sad bunch of ageing nonentities (and the Sixties singer Jess Conrad) gathered on a wet pavement near Leicester Square yesterday to watch that most British of institutions, Screaming Lord Sutch, sing a few 'numbers' to plug the paperback edition of his autobiography. A quick glance at the book, Life as Sutch, reveals an intriguing cover-quote, from Enoch Powell's Daily Telegraph review, saying merely: 'The book has no index.' Just for the record, Powell's original piece concluded: 'The trouble is that the Monster Raving Loony turned out to have been only another specimen of that boring species, the general public.'

NOT for the faint-hearted, the Guardian. On yesterday's leader page, Edward Pearce argued fiercely against taking the 'anti- Serbian' attitude, concluding that Western backing should be given to an enlarged Serbia - 'a perfectly rational thing, so is a Muslim-free city of Sarajevo'. A Muslim-what city? 'Ed's in Portugal and I'm trying to contact him, but we think it should have read 'a Muslim, free city',' says a sorry deputy features editor. 'As Guardian misprints go, this one's a cracker.'


13 August 1927 Robert Byron writes to his mother from the SS Patris II in Marseille: 'At last I am on board after a hideous morning. I lost all my keys and have had to have the suitcase lock forced - fortunately with no damage, but it has been very annoying. It is delicious to be in the south again and smell the dust. I travelled in the Train Bleu - a positive miracle of comfort with melon, trout, chicken and brown bread ice for dinner - the silver and glass shining as if the best butler alive were on the train - really extraordinary. Things do not seem to be very cheap in this town. I am longing to get to Greece - I have already had my first row in the steamship office. As it is I keep thinking of Queen Victoria's words 'this vainglorious and immoral people'.'