Diary

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Upset turns into uproar at the opera

THE TROUBLES of the broke Royal Opera House, one organisation that would welcome a change in Minister for Fun, are illustrated in the latest issue of the house magazine, UpROHr. Its editor, Lorraine Lyons, has popped a damning three-page editorial into what is otherwise a jolly works paper (elsewhere there's an illustrated feature on how to tell if members of the orchestra come from outer space). Lyons, who has now left her job at the Opera House, criticises its handling of the budget crisis and writes of personnel changes that have 'deeply damaged staff morale' - in particular the loss of the treasured public relations man Ewen Balfour and the 'summary dismissal', with minimal notice, of the secretary to the General Director, Jeremy Isaacs. She also comments abrasively on the employment of a new director of public relations and a 'dramaturg.', Patrick Carnegy (even the ROH authorities find it hard to explain what he does in fewer than five sentences). His office, reckons Lyons, costs pounds 60,000 to pounds 70,000 and its work could easily be performed by others. An Opera House spokeswoman puts a brave face on the publication: 'It's healthy that staff should feel free to express their points of view'; but elsewhere in the building staff chortle at a 'terrific editorial' - and point out that this is not the first time that UpROHr has had to find a new editor after it has been less than supportive of the management. So far a volunteer for the job has not emerged.

A LIVE interview with the former senior steward of the Jockey Club, Lord Howard de Walden, went on rather a long time on Channel 4's Racing programme yesterday afternoon. So viewers were only a touch surprised to hear a producer dismiss his lordship with these words: 'Get out of the way, you silly old fart. Go help the aged.'

Sound bite

HOW does Damien Hirst, an artist nominated for the 1992 Turner Prize, follow his work The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (that was the 18ft shark suspended in formaldehyde for which Charles Saatchi paid a reputed pounds 50,000 earlier this year)? Answer: with a recording of himself in the toilet of the Burlington Bertie pub after a particularly depressing opening in Cork Street. Hirst's tape is part 'The Speaker Project', a compilation of three-minute sound pieces by a collection of artists to be heard at the ICA from next week. Do let's hope he hadn't been sampling the pickled fish.

BOOKER prize judge Mark Lawson horrified Greater London Radio listeners on Wednesday evening with tales of having to wade through eight million words before drawing up the final shortlist of six books. And the judges, poor lambs, had been paid 'less than pounds 1 a word'. Less than pounds 8m, then? In fact each judge receives pounds 2,500, which, for six books, is less than pounds 417 each.

Caught short

WANT to know why the UN inspectors in Iraq have had such a tough time picking through the rubble of Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes? Being held hostage in a Baghdad car park for five days didn't help, but nor did using a Land-Rover to chase an Iraqi convoy of lorries loaded with equipment from a secret uranium enrichment plant. The head of the UN team, David Kay, tells next month's GQ that the truck ran out of fuel mid-pursuit. It was a Gulf war leftover supplied by the British with a dodgy fuel gauge.

INSIGHT into how London Underground's Customer Charter will work comes via this illuminating exchange between staff, overheard at Highbury & Islington tube station yesterday morning. Intercom: 'Thanks for your help, brother.' Station attendant: 'It's not thanks for my help, brother, it's my duty.'

Floating proposals

IT'S good to see the Liberal Democrats, a third party, facing up to another term of opposition with some bright new policy initiatives, like, um, the ban on funfairs putting goldfish in plastic bags. Any other ideas for Paddy Ashdown and his team? We'll reward any published with a bottle of Lanson champagne - the bubbles strictly confined to a sturdy green glass container.

A DAY LIKE THIS

11 September 1951 Jean Cocteau writes in his journal: 'Dinner at the Hotel du Cap with Christian-Jaque. We talk about the - alas, all too unmysterious - mystery of film financing. Granted, everything costs too much. But our films make money. But for whom? Not for us. The figures are in order when they are shown to us. What do these figures represent? What manipulations? What receipts? Here begins the mystery of that ruin which seems to affect neither producers not distributors. Moreover, these figures never correspond to the obvious facts, to letters from abroad, to personal information. It is certain that the film industry fattens only its industrialists and that we are their milk cows. How to change this rhythm? We are up against a wall.'

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