Diary

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"Dear RDE (Well, how does one address people these days?)" began a letter from Maurice Walshe containing all manner of amusing verse (including one too rude to print but so funny that I will send it to anyone who asks, especially if they include a stamped addressed envelope). Believe me, I am not fussy. A woman used to being routinely greeted by a publisher - the brilliant Andrew Franklin, recently made redundant by Penguin Viking in an act of corporate madness - as "Dudley Edwards, you old bag", is not likely easily to take offence.

Looking at the nearest pile of your letters, I find the following openers: "Dear Diarist"/"Diary"/"Ruth"/"Ruth Dudley B." or "Edwards"/"Madam"/"Miss, Mrs or Ms"/"Edwards" or "Dudley Edwards"/"Ms Edwards"/and "Ms Ruth". A departure from the norm was Fred Belgarnie's "Root (as they say in Ireland)", which is accurate only up to a point, for I have only been called "Root" in County Cork, where they have trouble with their tee aitches. (Junior persons in the village I used to visit during the summers of my childhood would call "Root of a tree" after me in the street and fall about in merriment.)

I come of a people given to familiarity. Ring up any Irish institution, from a bank to a government minister's office, and on saying you are Fred Belgarnie or Margaret Thatcher, the switchboard operator will respond, "Hiya, Fred/Margaret. This is Noreen." So why not conserve your energies and simply address me by my first name?

I'm not suggesting you emulate him, but I must give a special mention to Gerard Benson, who recently addressed me as "Dear Ruth Dudley Edwards (or dearest trout, if I may)". To regular readers this will be instantly comprehensible: newcomers should consult the files.

Another reader with piscine concerns is Michael Spencer. Apparently as a gentle rebuke, he recently addressed his beloved as a "daft haddock", his family's equivalent of "silly billy". She, thinking the term equivalent to "stupid bitch", reacted "accordingly". When peace was restored, Michael and his daft haddock consulted Partridge's Dictionary of Historical Slang, which offered only "purse" or "money". I am too busy a trout to undertake extensive researches myself, so I leave it to you to bring some light to bear on this matter, if there is any to be had.

I've tried but can't resist yet another Sun caption. Headed "A pitta all right", it shows that Sun readers are more cosmopolitan than you might think. "Kebab-ulous Claire Louise, 22, is half Greek. And the Bristol babe is off to Greece for her hols. Page 3 fans will miss admiring her sheek figure while she's away Athens such a good time. But donner worry, fellas - we'll be retsina again soon."

My opinion of the drivers of black taxis has gone sharply down. First, the tenant of my affections reported that as he was driven past Buckingham Palace the other day, the driver asked: "What are those stands for?"

Tenant: "VJ commemorations."

Driver: "What's VJ?"

Tenant: "Victory over Japan."

Driver (after a short silence): "At what?"

Then, on Friday, going down Piccadilly, a driver told me that Trafalgar Square was full of Muslims. "What are they demonstrating about?" I asked. "They're celebrating opening up a big mosque in Neasden." At that very moment, I saw coming towards us a line of brightly coloured floats with - at the head of the procession - an enormous sculpture of an elephant's head. "There they are," he said. "They're not Muslims," I said. "They're Hindus. That's Ganesh, the elephant God." The driver shrugged. " 'S all the same, in' it?" I fear he is not alone in his relaxed ignorance, for the media seem determined to dub this magnificent temple "the Taj Mahal of Neasden". That should madden both Hindus and Muslims alike.

My friend Andrew Boyd wrote to point out that the Radio Times had a picture of what they called the "War Memorial at Kohima, Japan", thus "displacing by 3,500 miles one of the war's most decisive battles". See also, he suggested, "the memorials at Arnhem in Bavaria and El Alamein, Turkey. [What is the superlative form of Ouch?]" Andrew was doubly wounded by this sloppiness, for he not only spent four years fighting in the Far East but is a sub-editor of genius.

On Saturday, he and I watched the VJ parade together, toasted absent friends in champagne, became occasionally moist of eye and puzzled over the commentator's revelation that those parading "salute with one hand and march with the other". Andrew spotted that the Queen's lips were moving during the playing of "Colonel Bogey", that great song which so graphically attests to the testicularly challenged condition of the Nazi leadership.

Department of corrections: Father Peter Harris points out that the Pope in the illustration accompanying last week's item on the Pope and Bovril was St Pius X, not - as claimed - Pius IX. JR Greensmith castigates me for egregiously (but I hope untypically) writing "whom I later learnt". And National Power want me to tell you that the conference I stumbled on in the fancy hotel in the Cotswolds was a regular meeting of the electricity supply industry "pool". While National Power organised it, they had only one representative present, and he paid pounds 60 for his bed and pounds 40 for his dinner. Apologies all round.

Dave Hickman is being rubbished for his recent pronouncements on the limerick. "Iambics go 'kerklunk kerklunk', whereas limericks go 'kerklunkety klunkety klunk' , begins Gerard Benson. And his further criticisms are echoed by Michael Wadsworth:

While it's true that iambic's not banned,

Anapaests are the feet that must stand;

Three, three, two, two, three

Is the pattern you'll see

In a limerick properly scanned.

However, I intend to accept Andrew Boyd's advice:

The limerick's form, my sweet Ruth,

Is inevitably quite uncouth.

So get tough, dearest Dudley,

Don't try to sound cuddly,

Stand no nonsense - gorblimey and strewth!

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