Diary

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The Independent Online
Scoop of the week appeared on the front page of the Whitstable and Herne Bay Times. It's not a story to be dressed up in flowery language, so I'll give it to you straight: Peter Cushing has disappeared. The deceased leading man of umpteen Hammer spookeramas is nowhere to be found. The whereabouts of the late hero of Dracula Has Risen From the Grave are shrouded in mystery. See what I'm driving at? As the WHB Times puts it, "Where is final resting place of the great horror star?"

Fans of the actor, who died 10 months ago, will know that in his autobiography he expressed a wish to be buried at St Alphege's Church, Seasalter, beside his late wife, Helen. But comb the graveyard though you may, you won't find him. As the Times reports, "Visitors to the Church are left confused by no sign of the actor's grave. Instead they come across a ..." [I can't bear it - a gaping hole? A blackened crucifix? A bloody stake?] "... a blank plaque beside that reserved for Helen."

Twilight Zone aficionados and freelance ghouls from all over Europe will soon be heading en masse for Whitstable to inquire about the revenant Pete. I should warn them that, having established their "mystery" story, the Times rather curtly supplies a solution. Mrs Joyce Broughton, Cushing's former secretary, claims that she buried him somewhere "in a private place. It was what he wanted and I have simply carried out his wishes". Mrs Broughton explains that Cushing disliked the fuss lavished on celluloid heroes, even dead ones, and was uncomfortable about strangers putting flowers on his wife's grave. More than that, Mrs B isn't saying.

So nobody knows where he is buried, my dear Van Helsing. Perhaps it's as well. Maybe now his troubled spirit can rest at last ... (Cue spooky music. Camera tracks across frozen meadow. Fencepost begins to vibrate ...)

I wonder how my chum Toby Young is progressing with his desire to join the Garrick Club? Private Eye carried a story that Young, the bald adolescent who recently auto-destructed the Modern Review, was invited to tell his side of the story by a high-spending tabloid, but published it instead in the Daily Telegraph on the understanding that its commissioning editor, Frank Johnson, would "put him up" for membership of the swish actors-and- writers-but-not-Jeremy-Paxman club.

I'm sure the outrageously cocky Mr Young will walk it, but I hope he understands that between the twin concepts of "being proposed" and "being accepted" yawns a chasm the size of the Sea of Tranquillity; and that he further realises the glee with which London clubmen exclude those they find socially infra dignitatem. I once met the late Jock Bruce-Gardyne, the raffish Treasury fixer, at the Garrick, with a mutual friend. As they talked, it became clear that both men had it in for Rocco Forte, the charismatic heir to the catering fortune, who had recently been put up for White's Club. How, my friend inquired, had the proposal been received? "Hah!" replied Lord Bruce-Gardyne. "Blackballed till he resembles a plate o'caviarrrr ..."

Those of us hooked on the OJ trial have often watched the figure of the hapless ex-footballer in court and wondered: what is he writing on those yellow pads? Now we know. Smuggled out of the LA courtroom, the complete legal pads of the world's most famous defendant offer a compendium of poignant ephemera: doodles of women's legs, prison bars, chains, boxes and Judge Ito, games of Noughts and Crosses, Battleships and Hangman; notes to his attorneys ("Get word to Kato - he screws up, someone else (Brad Pitt?) plays him in movie"); and pathetic attempts at self-exculpation ("Possib. alibi: went through out-of-body experience - spooky voices - swirly lava-lamp type visions, intense feelings of innocence. Woke up at home in yard practising golf swing ...").

How frustrating to find it's all a spoof, albeit a superior one. It is published in mid-July by HarperCollins, who must be praying the trial will still be running by then.

The doorbell went at 4.15am on Wednesday morning, pealing like a soul in torment. Preparing a mouthful of abuse, I answered it, and found a woman, about 30, beaten and kicked to a pulp, covered in blood, her eye like a bursting pawpaw, her cheek distended to a pumpkin. We phoned the police and ambulance, got her iced water (but her mouth was too mashed to drink anything) and towels (but she couldn't clean herself up before the police arrived - blood is evidence). She apologised for bleeding on the kitchen floor.

It was her boyfriend who'd done it, she said; he'd become enraged because she'd dented his car the day before, and now he'd taken their children and gone. Hours earlier, she'd appeared at the local police station, begging them to take her in for the night until he had calmed down, but they had no remit to keep innocent people in cells and she'd been turned away to face his wrath. The attack had taken three hours.

The police arrived, said "Jesus H ..." when they saw her and called the CID, then the ambulance crew came and were infinitely subtle and kindly with her. At 5am, my mild, suburban kitchen was full of uniforms. As they took her to the ambulance, we asked, "Have you the number of a friend we could ring, to say you're in hospital?" "If I had one," she said with sudden heat, "this wouldn't have happened, would it?" On the way out, the cops said thank you and added, a la Nick Ross, "And remember - this doesn't happen every day." Christ, I hope not.

Why was Kazuo Ishiguro awarded the OBE in last Sunday's birthday honours? Because he won the Booker Prize five years ago? (But then you would have to award James Kelman and others.) Because he's a personable and charming deracine from an exotic, if war-torn, location? (But then ditto Ben Okri.) So, why?

There are two explanations. One is that Ish once worked, for a month in 1973, as a grouse-beater to the Queen Mother. But it would be a prodigious act of memory, would it not, for the Queen Mum to remember his expertise at woodcock-rousing from 22 years ago? The answer is more simple: HM the Queen is a fan. The only novel that we know for a fact the Queen has read in the past 10 years is The Remains of the Day. During a royal visit abroad in 1990, the story goes, she told an equerry she had left the book she was reading (Miller's Antiques? The Joy of Stock Breeding?) on the plane. He passed on the Ish classic - about a butler who realises he has spent a lifetime serving a bad master - and Her Majesty took it to bed. The equerry was anxious to see if she had enjoyed it, but for three whole days could not catch her eye. Finally, he asked: "I hope, Ma'am, you found nothing offensive in the book I recommended?" "Not at all," replied the Queen. "But tell me, is that really what happens [below stairs]? Is that really how they think? I had no idea."

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