Diary

Share
Before setting off to the country last week, I tried to reach the taxi driver who always picked me up when I visited that particular part of the world, but found his number had been discontinued. "Do you know Barry?" I asked the driver at the head of the queue. "Is he here?"

"Better come with me," he said comfortably. "Barry's dead."

"How can he be dead?" I asked indignantly. "He was only 50 and very fit."

"Keeled over," he said. "Goes to show you're a fool to take anything for granted."

On my return I reported my distress to my friend Nina, who expressed sympathy for Barry, observed that life was indeed unfair, but added thoughtfully: "Mind you, considering I drink, smoke and take no exercise, I should be glad that it is."

My East Anglian host's magnificent music collection contains some bizarre items. This time he played me Shostakovich's orchestral version of Tea for Two and a 1903 recording of the last castrato, whose voice I found peculiar and unsettling. Describing it to someone afterwards I quite unintentionally explained that it gave me the willies.

Do not be overimpressed by Tony Kaye, the installation artist, who having exhibited a live tramp as a work of art is now searching for a female Aids victim to become another exhibit. Many years ago - even before Gilbert and George rose to fame - the over-creative Irish fantasist Sean MacReamoinn conceived the notion of an Irish touring group of those husbands who were frequently rebuked at home for "making an exhibition of yourself". If successful, there was to be a religious follow-up composed of those accused of "making a Holy God's show of yourself".

I am deriving some amusement from the growing enthusiasm for privacy laws displayed by members of the Labour Party - although the Tories, who have suffered so much at the hands of the tabloid press, seem stoically determined to suffer the status quo. Could it be that both sides think that most Tory skeletons are now out of the cupboard, and foresee an interesting time when the tabloids lose enthusiasm for a Labour government?

The Independent's computer has been ticked off for twice last week eradicating the names of diarists from the tops of their columns. I was pleased that the culprit was a machine rather than a sub-editor, for as a rule subs receive only criticism, readers are unaware of their contribution and journalists grumble rather than praise. Yet however fair one tries to be, it is hard not to emit a scream of pain and look for someone to blame when an error appears in one's printed prose.

It doesn't really matter with newspapers, but a mistake in a book is for ever and can lead to sleepless nights. I still toss and turn over my observation in the preface to my history of the Economist, that writing it had been "alternately a fearful burden and a job", when of course I meant "joy". The classic example, however, is that about which PG Wodehouse wrote in the poem Printer's Error, which my Economist friend, the journalist Andrew Boyd, sent me recently on the grounds that the heroine shared my name.

The poem tells of the author who was enjoying reading his latest book, when he was suddenly racked with pain:

I'd written (which I thought quite

good)

"Ruth, ripening into womanhood,

Was now a girl who knocked men

flat

And frequently got whistled at,"

And some vile, careless, casual gook

Had spoiled the best thing in the

book

By printing "not"

(Yes, "not", great Scott!)

When I had written "now".

Like anyone else to whom that error of all errors has happened, I still feel an upsurge of rage at the memory and therefore approve the author's murder of the compositor, cheer on the judge who dismissed his case and would have contributed to the statue raised by PEN in honour of the hero who got:

A gun at great expense and shot

The human blot who'd printed "not"

When he had written "now".

Apropos of the above, a friend reports to me that his typist recently returned to him a piece of work containing the line: "The price of a virtuous woman is far above rabies." (If that appears as "rubies", I will not be responsible for my actions.)

Seeing that rigour is on the agenda today, I must hold up matters on the limerick front to deal with some of the accumulated criticisms, although I assure you that I have no intention of becoming a harsh judge myself. I have no talent in this area whatsoever and am impressed by almost all of your contributions. However, in Memo to RDE Richard Taylor laments:

It's sad to see one of your calling

Find space when the standards are

falling.

Inaccurate rhymes

Are signs of the times,

But absence of scansion's

appalling.

Dave Hickman (to whom I offer a grovelling apology for a missing word in his last limerick) gives the rule of thumb:

The limerick must, in its form

To metre iambic conform

Feet four, four, three, three, four,

And a rhyme-scheme, what's

more -

A, A, B, B, A, as its norm.

Richard Benny was made extremely cross on several grounds, especially about sloppy rhymes concerning Greeks, and has shown us how to do it in his Timete Danaos Dona Ferentes or Not:

The Greeks, so they say, at

Thermopylae

Behaved, I'm afraid, quite

impropylae

When up on the Phyx

They played practical tryx -

And they cheated like mad at

Monopylae.

I hope you've all been paying attention.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
More From
RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV & HGV Mechanics

£29000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV Mechanics & HGV mechani...

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

£120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Anti-fracking activists near a proposed site at Westby, near Blackpool  

10 things you need to know about fracking – the case against

Donna Hume
 

How to really be a YouTube star: Be white and wealthy

Olly Lennard
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee