Coming soon: the Booker prize salmon

BORED with the Booker? There's more to come. Next year is the 25th anniversary of the literary prize marrow contest, jointly won last night by Barry Unsworth and Michael Ondaatje, and executives are pondering how to milk even more publicity for the company. A Booker of Bookers is the idea, with former judges choosing the best of 27 winning novels (in 1974 Nadine Gordimer shared the prize with Stanley Middleton). Or they may choose from all the novels ever shortlisted. Ghastly job, and about as pointless as a Miss World of Miss Worlds. What the prize might be is anyone's guess. Booker plc (which has nothing to do with books, its interests being food distribution, salmon farming and something called agribusiness) made pounds 32.6m profit in the first six months of this year, so we'd suggest something between the pounds 20,000 shared by Unsworth and Ondaatje, and the pounds 700,000 you get for the Nobel. And a free salmon.

THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has gone to Istanbul, where he concluded his lecture to the assembled patriarchs thus: 'Your mission and ministry here remind us that Christianity always stands for, stands against, and stands between.' Can anyone suggest what Dr Carey can possibly have meant?

Character reference QUITE how this may affect the US presidential campaign is hard to judge, but we can reveal that the Oxford house where Bill Clinton lodged as a student was later occupied by Howard Marks, Britain's most notorious drug smuggler. Clinton and three other Rhodes Scholars shared the four-storey Victorian house - 46 Leckford Road - in 1969: and there Clinton smoked marijuana without inhaling it and allegedly helped to organise a demonstration against the Vietnam War outside the US embassy. The present occupants are Daniel Waissbein, a 45-year-old translator, his wife, Anna, and their two children. Waissbein says: 'We now have a vested interest in a Bill Clinton victory: if he wins, then we can invite him here.' Wayland Dennis, the son of the builder who used to rent the house to Clinton, says he was 'a thoroughly nice bloke, a well-mannered, well-behaved young American gentleman.' Pity.

ST ANDREWS University can get no larger. Fife Regional Council has told the authorities that if it takes on more than 5,000 students, the town's sewers will be unable to cope. Despite the university's reputation as the birthplace of the new Tory radicalism and its high proportion of strident 'Yahs' from the English shires, there is no suggestion that students are more full of the problem substances than the natives.

Our spies report . . .

THE RUSSIANS are increasingly desperate to show that the bear's teeth are there only to smile with. In the Golden Hall of the Russian ambassador's residence - until recently the HQ of KGB officers in London - the embassy has started holding concerts (first the music; then the vodka and canapes) for diplomats, politicians and figures from the arts. Last week's was a Soviet event in one respect: the singer Vaycheslav Kagan Palei is from Belarus, and his accompanist from Lithuania. But Kagan Palei is no macho bass but a male alto - with a single ear-ring. A single ear-ring? In the Soviet past such a thing would scarcely have been allowed inside the portals.

SINCE David Mellor elected to spend more time with his family, he's been appointed a columnist on the Guardian and a soccer pundit for BSkyB. He's now considering an offer from Radio 5 to take over Danny Baker's Six-0- Six programme, a Saturday afternoon football phone-in, from the new year. He should be aware of the rumour at Broadcasting House that, should he accept, the producers want him to pose for promotional shots in his Chelsea strip. A BBC person says: 'We're game, if he is.'

AND THANK you, rock dinosaurs Genesis, for agreeing to give a concert in aid of the Prince's Trust at the Albert Hall on the 16th of next month. Thank you, too, for issuing - 'coincidentally', as your PR people put it - a new album on the very same day.

A day like this

14 October, 1947 Denton Welch writes in his journal: 'As I was driving home by the Pilgrim's Way above Wrotham Water I came upon a mass of scarlet and red in the corner of a field, that I first mistook for a bright new farm implement. Then as I drew nearer I saw that the mass was soft and not shiny. I then half-explained it to myself as a bundle or folded tent belonging to some very brilliant gypsy. Only when I was almost upon it did I realise that the heap was a man and woman lying in each other's arms on the stiff dried-up grass. They seemed perfectly still, locked and twisted together intricately - the black legs and arms of the man over the vivid scarlet sausage of the girl's dress. I wondered if they would always remember this Sunday, or whether it would be lost in a vast heap of other clinging, clutching, hugging holidays.'

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