Diary

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LAMONT'S WINE: WAS IT MONEY WELL SPENT?

NOW that we know what Norman Lamont bought that fateful Sunday night in a Paddington off-licence (though you might still wonder how a man who forgot to pay his Access bill 22 times can be so together as to lay in his family's Christmas booze five weeks in advance), it's time to ask whether he was right to buy it. There were, you recall, three bottles of claret on that receipt: a 1990 Sichel Margaux, and two of no vintage or memorable name. To those who would castigate Lamont for buying a classic such as the Margaux ( pounds 9.49) for immediate drinking, the wine writer Jancis Robinson says - Nonsense] 'So supple and lovely a wine is perfectly drinkable now - and Margaux is a very forward appellation.' Robinson wonders that Lamont should match such a good wine with two, well, rather poor ones. The JP Bartier claret sells for pounds 3.99 a bottle - her tasting notes on it contain just one word: 'Dirty.'

BEN OKRI, author of The Famished Road, is no longer the Booker Prize winner: for a month now he's been a mere former victor. How's he taking it? Well, he introduced himself confidently at the Turner Prize party at the Tate last week: 'I'm Booker. I wrote the Ben Okri.'

HOLIER THAN THOU

The Jewish events magazine New Moon tells us that whenever a few Jews are gathered together to discuss their religion, one question predominates - is it true that when ultra-orthodox Jews have sex, they do it using a sheet with a suitably-sized hole cut in it? New Moon has conducted an investigation into this important question. 'Oh yes,' says Rabbi Yehuda Yonah Rubinstein, of Manchester, 'not only do orthodox Jews have sex through a hole in the sheet, these days we've diversified. Many of us have sex through a hole in a continental quilt. Personally, I favour wearing a suit of armour while having sex. Some couples go the whole hog, sleep in separate rooms and have sex through a hole in the wall]' He adds: 'I love this myth. As soon as someone asks me about this one I know I'm dealing with a troglodyte who's just emerged from the cave. Seriously brain-dead.'

CHERYL GILLAN, the new Conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham, is most notable for her extensive collection of chinchillas (live). But she is also, she writes in the House magazine, the proud possessor of a Christmas card from Dan Quayle. Despite the fact she's never met him. Gillan's convinced the card is the real potatoes: it has the Vice-President's seal, and a competently signed photo of the man. But the clincher is that it's addressed, she says, ' 'To Cheryl', with a potato-shaped blob where a final E has been added and then desperately erased.'

TOP GOBBLERS

Our 'Turkey of the Year' competition, asking you to nominate the flop of 1992, brought a farmyard-full of candidates - the exchange rate mechanism, pollsters, the Labour election campaign, Vinny Jones, the tabloid pictures of Fergie's breasts - but the winner by an extraordinary margin was the Conservative government, or various members of it. You were all too grumpy to be witty on the subject, however. Malcolm Pettit nominated the General Election, with this stuffing: 'Orchestrated tedium rising to pre-ballot, quasi-orgasmic excitement followed by mass euphoria and ending in post-electoral tristesse.' Celia Mead put forward the Royal Institute of Public Administration, set up 70 years ago to promote good management, but which got its finances into a tangle in 1992 and went into receivership. They both win turkeys, courtesy of the British Turkey Federation, and so does Rupert Lee, whose nomination made us squawk with laughter, but is, sadly, unprintable.

MORE news of banks charging like wounded rhino ('You're 15p overdrawn, plus pounds 10 for this letter'), from one Lilian Smith, a pensioner from Essex. Last week she tried to change a pounds 10 note at the Loughton branch of Lloyds Bank, but was told she'd have to pay pounds 3 as she didn't have an account there. A spokesbanker explains helpfully: 'It's a set charge, so it helps if you have a large sum of money to change.'

A DAY LIKE THIS

1 December 1927 Karen Blixen writes to her mother, Ingeborg Dinesen: 'I think the underlying cause of the present-day women's movement is the fact that men have lost their prestige, and this is probably not entirely their own fault but due to the fact that conditions of life have changed with the advance of civilisation; with comparative peace and security for moving about women, too, are able to acquire insight and experience in many spheres that were once the preserves of men. Aunt Bess writes that women's greatest happiness in life is to serve an (excellent) husband. To serve a Napoleon, Gustav Adolph or General Booth - as far as that goes everyone would be prepared to do, men as well as women, but the question here is: is the average woman to serve the average man? and I cannot find the least reason for that.'

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