Diary

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Until last Friday I had never celebrated Bloomsday. Indeed, I've never managed to finish Ulysses, and what's more, I hate pork kidneys and Gorgonzola sandwiches even more than self-conscious literary pilgrimages. However I was enticed to a lunch in Mulligan's restaurant, where the Joycery was limited to a couple of short and excellent readings and there wasn't a literary critic in sight.

With the assembled company I discussed a recent conversation with the playwright Brian Behan, when he said it behoves us all to encourage persons of the paramilitary persuasion to write books. "Once they start writing books they are on their way out." Feeling faintly guilty about my unkind reviews of the novels of Danny Morrison, my description of Gerry Adams' writing as mawkish and my fulminations about Martin McGuinness's sensitive poem about a trout, we devised a plan for the intelligence services to set up creative writing courses devoted to keeping retired gunmen busy and happy. "But that'll work only for the republicans," I pointed out. "Protestant paramilitaries have no literary pretensions." "But they're showing a taste for conferences," said one friend cunningly. So our solution is to require the republicans to write about the loyalists, who will then be invited to innumerable conferences to argue about whether they are being fairly presented.

On Thursday, my chiropractor complained that in his last practice it was acceptable for women to insist on seeing a female chiropractor but it was deemed sexist for a man to demand a man. I proceeded to the Reform Club where I ran into a pal. "Ah," he said, "you're here for the Women in Journalism party." "Certainly not," I said. "I don't like ghettos. And anyway, I wasn't invited." "Dammit," he said, "we're a bisexual club. Why are they keeping men out of events?"

I relayed this discussion to the tenant of my affections when he arrived, and forgot about it. He didn't, and as we were leaving, hearing the merry chatter from the library, he said: "Let's join them." "We can't," I said pusillanimously. "We haven't been invited and you're not a journalist, let alone a woman." "Bugger that," he said, and charged into the party, emerging a couple of moments later to announce that he didn't like the look of them. Putting on a creditable impersonation of the Oldest Member he turned to me and said: "All lesbians, I suppose." From behind us in an icy female voice came the words "Not all of us." The speaker swept past us disdainfully, I cringed and he, being impervious to embarrassment, laughed. What a dangerous and misleading thing is a joke. She will have gone away with evidence of misogyny in clubland, yet I am the member, he is the guest, the Reform has been happily coeducational for more than a decade and I can't imagine any male member of the club hosting an event called Men in Journalism.

The reports of the row at Rugby about appointing Louise Woolcock as head girl threw up the information that in state schools head prefects are usually appointed by a vote of sixth-formers with some input from staff, while independent schools seem to favour appointment by staff with some consultation with pupils. When I was at convent school in Ireland we had an annual vote for all prefects in which, mysteriously, the best-behaved girls always topped the poll. I later discovered that, under a masquerade of democracy, the nuns had been operating a totalitarian system. The pupils thought prefects were elected by popular vote, but the nuns secretly rigged the result. I can't recommend such a sneaky approach, but it certainly inhibited dissent.

Department of corrections: I apologise to Lewis Howdle for the distress I caused him by following a plural

subject with a singular verb and hope he can find it in his heart to forgive me. Lynne Thomas writes that "at the risk of incurring more anti- Welsh feeling - we are not nit-pickers, honestly - I feel I have to say that I cannot allow the rhyming of Rhayader with bladder". It is, she alleges, pronounced Rhy a derr by Welsh speakers and Ray derv by locals. So John Parke should hang his head and next time he needs a rhyme for bladder choose, as she suggests, Radyr, near Cardiff. Mind you, he may well feel disinclined to heed the advice of a woman who freely admits she would support New Zealand before England.

An idle remark in last week's diary about how life would be sartorially less challenging if I took to wearing a black bin liner has caused some controversy in the letters column. At the risk of further offending hejab wearers, I'm firmly backing up Julie Hynds' statement that sexual harassment is routine in Islamic countries, even if one is covered from head to foot. And the assumption is that if you're not in a hejab you're asking for it.

It's hardly surprising, since repression has the chaps in a permanent state of sexual excitement, which is exacerbated by speculation about what the ladies are wearing under their demure black covers. I was fascinated to observe in the souk in Damascus that dozens of hejabbed women were buying underwear that would make a hooker blush. So on second thoughts I shan't go over to the garment: I don't want to disturb the tranquillity of the Reform.

Eerily, the late Sid James and the equally late Charles Hawtrey, of Carry On fame, peer down from hoardings advertising KP Nuts. I wonder about the ethics of using images of the recently dead. But even more do I wonder if, when the agency devised the slogan for Sid James, they were aware that he was about to be revealed in a biography as a compulsive womaniser. If so, is "KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY NUTS!" really appropriate?

Now for conclusions to "A judge at the courts of Old Bailey/Once sentenced a whale to a ceilidh":

"In that sink of Nationalists/There'll be no Rationalists/So I order you to blow up daily' (Jocelyn Braddell); "The perverse cetacean/Just ginned in elation/(It already went to one daily) (Paul Henderson); "It had to wear clogs,/The size of ten logs,/And dance through the nights, and daily" (Janet Holdcroft); "Where it joined in a dance/With a flatfish from France,/And a mermaid whose tail was all scaly" (Hugh Mitchell); " `Thar she blows!' cried the band/As they played on the sand/And she jigged in the shallows so gaily" (Patsy Riley); "Likewise, for a lark,/A litigious shark/To sing at least ten folk songs daily" (Alan Street)

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