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How green was my role model

SARA PARKIN's decision to stand down as the Green Party's glamorous leader comes as no surprise to the mainly volunteer staff at the party's tatty headquarters in Balham, south London. Some months ago her supporters at head office received a furious circular from Parkin, who lives in France, saying she was fed up with attempts to oust her as the chair of the party's executive. 'On a prime-time telephone line from Lyons she would ritually unburden herself for an hour or so about who was out to get her and how,' Barbara Bloomfield, a former Green Party press officer, tells us. 'I'm surprised Sara has lasted this long.' While she clearly had her detractors in the party, she became something of a role model as far as women are concerned. Last winter a Glasgow University survey of party members discovered that the majority of recent recruits were Sara Parkin clones: newly grey mothers in their early forties from the leafier parts of suburbia. .

GERMANY's agonised debate over whether to allow its troops outside the Nato area takes a new turn with this pronouncement from the Defence Minister, Volker Ruhe, in an interview this week with the German daily newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung: 'I am not willing to risk the lives of German soldiers for countries whose names we cannot even spell properly.'

By royal decree

MARTYN STEWART, proprietor of the Spar grocery-cum-newsagent in Blair Atholl, seven miles north of Pitlochry in the Scottish Highlands, tells us a heartening tale. Yesterday morning the man from John Menzies was in his shop organising a promotion when he received an urgent phone call from the Perth depot. 'We are seven Independents short for the Queen at Balmoral. You need to get seven crisp, clean copies for Her Majesty.' A shaken representative grabbed the only pristine copy from Mr Stewart's shelf and set off in search of six more copies before embarking on the 90-mile drive north-east to Balmoral, near Braemar. Which begs the question . . . Is One?

LET'S hope that the BBC provides Kate Adie in Yugoslavia with rather more protection than was made available to another BBC correspondent. In May, Suzy Price was preparing to go to Kabul to report on Afghanistan for the World Service. When she asked her boss, Nick Nugent, head of current affairs for the Eastern Service, for a bullet-proof vest, he replied: 'Aren't we being a little dramatic?' Request refused, apparently on grounds of cost. Now that the Afghanistan capital has been suffering heavy bombardment, the BBC has relented and is rushing out the latest in designer war-correspondent wear.

21.03 to nowhere

PROPOSALS that British Rail will be split into separate parts before privatisation are being taken a little too seriously by BR staff. Passengers wishing to board the 21.03 to East Dulwich and beyond at London Bridge station on Wednesday followed instructions to take the farthest four coaches and waited for the departure of their train. The whistle blew, and the first two coaches trundled off, leaving a number of confused passengers in the second half. After an initial muttered admission that the two sets had not been coupled together, the BR man remembered his lines. 'I really can't say anything about it,' he repeated like an automaton. Apart from having their belief in BR's communications skills confirmed, the remaining passengers were left with a dilemma. Under the Passenger's Charter they can claim compensation if the train is cancelled. But what happens if only half of it leaves?

JAMES TYE, director-general of the British Safety Council, a charity concerned with safety at work, wants to ban a television ad for Levi's jeans in which a beautiful girl falls for a bare-chested motor mechanic as he stands, greasy overalls tied round his midriff, in a shower of sparks. He fears it will encourage copycat behaviour and lead to breaches of the health and safety laws. Young, impressionable apprentices and trainees could be manipulated into wanting to strip off in the nearest garage, believing that it looks 'sexy and trendy'. Honestly, when was the last time you drooled over a Kwik Fit fitter?


28 August 1819 John Keats writes to Fanny Brawne from Winchester: 'The delightful weather we have had for two months is the highest gratification I could receive - no chilled red roses, no shivering, but fair atmosphere to think in - a clean towel mark'd with the mangle and a basin of clear water to drench one's face in ten times a day; no need of much exercise - a mile a day being quite sufficient. My greatest regret is that I have not been well enough to bathe, though I have been two months by the seaside and live now close to delicious bathing. Still I enjoy the weather. . . . Give me books, fruit, French wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors and I can pass a summer very quietly without caring much about fat Louis, fat Regent or the Duke of Wellington.