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No news does not have to be good news

HUMAYUN KHAN, Pakistan's High Commissioner in London, and M A Latif Ulfat, the High Commission's information chief, have just been summarily recalled home after falling out of favour with Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's Prime Minister. The High Commissioner leaves this week, Latif Ulfat later this month and their replacements have yet to be named. Sharif, apparently, is very upset about the meagre British press coverage of his visit here in June. Having brought a large retinue of Pakistani journalists with him at government expense, he did not understand why the High Commission was unable to whistle up equal numbers of British reporters to cover his visit. Didn't they all come running every time his glamorous, Oxford-educated predecessor, Benazir Bhutto, graced these shores? Worse still, the Prime Minister's trip was so uneventful that the only thing the accompanying Pakistani reporters could find to write about was how he was being snubbed by the British media.

THE most passionate passages of the newly banned Dianagate tapes have now been dubbed into German for callers ringing the east Berlin weekly newspaper Super Illu. The translators, hard pressed to come up with a word for squidgy, have resorted to tintenfischlein - 'little ink fish'.

No saucy slags ONE of the more imaginative marketing ideas of the century has sadly been canned. Earlier this year HP Foods approached Viz comic, hoping to reproduce some of its characters - Biffa Bacon, Johnny Fartpants and the Fat Slags - in a new line of sauce-covered pasta shapes. 'We get approached all the time by people wanting to do marketing tie-ins,' John Brown, Viz's publisher, tells us. 'But we thought this was a hilarious idea.' Regrettably, just as the licensing deal was being scrutinised by lawyers on both sides, some HP high-up pulled the plug. 'I think,' Brown says, 'they suddenly realised we were an adult comic.'

IT'S heartening to discover the lengths our boys in blue will go to to maintain standards. Witness item 5 of an internal memorandum circulated this summer in several police stations on the outskirts of Leicester. Entitled 'Correct folding of Letters to be sent by Royal Mail', the text reads: 'In spite of previous requests to correctly fold letters/ other correspondence to ensure that 'franking' marks are visible on envelopes, it has come to light that this is still not being accomplished. Unless there is equal thickness across the entire envelope, the franking machine will not mark the envelope properly. In an attempt to improve the standards of presentation . . . correspondence should be folded as per the instruction sheet attached (part of which we reproduce above).' This instruction, the author warns, must be 'strictly adhered to'.

Deathly rhymes A BRITISH academic has organised a poetry competition for prisoners on Death Row in the US. The rules are simple - no more than 32 lines and only those who have been convicted of capital offences are eligible. Michael Foot, Benjamin Zephaniah, the British rasta poet, and U A Fanthorpe are among the judges. Dr Marie Colvey Roberts, an English lecturer at Bristol Polytechnic (now cumbersomely renamed the University of the South West in Bristol), who often writes three or four times a week to Jackie Humphreys, a murderer facing execution in an Oklahoma penitentiary, thought of the idea to distract prisoners from their fate. 'When you consider,' she says, 'they spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement . . . it's not so surprising that they should turn to poetry.' The competition, organised by LifeLines, which puts penfriends in touch with some of the 2,500 convicts on Death Row, expects at least 200 entries and hopes to publish the best in an anthology. So far, publishers have found the idea too macabre.

IT almost makes you wonder what environmentalists think of their children. The latest fashion among the truly green cyclist is to tow the kids along behind you in an all-weather backward-facing buggy. Yours for just pounds 230 (plus pounds 70 for a rain cover). Oh, and it's called, somewhat bafflingly, the Bugger.


4 September 1666 Samuel Pepys describes the third day of the Great Fire of London: 'Up by break of day, to get away the remainder of my things; which I did by a lighter at the Iron gate; and my hands so few, that it was the afternoon before we could get them all away. Sir W. Pen and I to Tower Street, and there met the fire burning three or four doors beyond Mr Howell's, whose goods, poor man, were flung all along Tower Street; the fire coming on in that narrow street, on both sides, with infinite fury. Sir W. Batten, not knowing how to remove his wine, did dig a pit in the garden, and laid it in there. And in the evening Sir W. Pen and I did dig another, and put our wine in it; and I my parmesan cheese, as well as some other things.'

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