Diary

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A literary storm in a pocket book?

ALTHOUGH schoolboys of all ages will doubtless welcome the return to bookshops of the Observer's series of pocket reference books, the reprint has not pleased the author of probably the best- known edition, the Observer's Book of Warships, and the matter is now resting rather uneasily in the hands of his solicitor.

Hugh Cowin, a defence analyst, is proud of the book he wrote 11 years ago and which sold 40,000 copies, but is now concerned that his reputation as a writer on marine defence has been harmed because the reprinted book is eight years out of date. He claims he has been 'made to look an ass' and is particularly peeved because he was not consulted by Penguin - who acquired the titles when it took over Frederick Warne 11 years ago - when they asked Godfrey Cave to reprint the series.

'I have been treated with arrogant disregard,' storms Cowin. 'This is an act of literary vandalism which is damaging to my reputation. I would have paid money to prevent re-publication without a major modernisation.'

Penguin is suitably abashed, although it stresses it is not contractually obliged to consult the author. A spokeswoman said: 'It was a mistake. We should have asked him and we are sorry this has upset him.'

THERE IS always another year for Sir David Steel and the Westminster Dog of the Year award. This year's rosette will go elsewhere following the late withdrawal of his flat-coated retriever, Lucy, who had entered with high hopes after coming a close second last year to Brian Gould's Angus, a white West Highland terrier. She is soon to have pups, rendering her figure too full for a beauty competition, I'm told. Sir David is philosophical, telling the organisers: 'May the best mutt win'.

Give him a big hand

FORMER Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke was in sentimental mood when he greeted an old acquaintance, Roy McLean, in Johannesburg recently. He owes his life to McLean who rescued him after he contrived to insert his leg in a moving pony trap by the Perth University cricket ground in 1952.

'All I remember was a strong pair of hands gripping my leg,' he told the crowd beside him. 'Those hands belonged to Roy McLean and if it was not for him I would have bled to death.' Growls, I'm told, from the spectators before he went on: 'I am sure that because of the sports sanctions I imposed, many in this country are sorry he saved my life.' A hush from the crowd and a thoughtful pause. 'But I,' said Hawke, 'am not.'

THE DECISION by the Labour Party to end the pairing system on select committees, which effectively stopped overseas trips for Labour MPs, has been dutifully carried out, robbing committee members of a trip to Paris last month, to name but one. There is always an exception to the rule, however.

A handful of MPs are off to Bosnia next week to boost the morale of our boys - and one Labour man, believed to be Bruce George, will be swelling the numbers. 'A one-off,' Derek Foster, the Labour Chief Whip, assures me.

Call for Kinnock NOT ALL Tories would turn to Neil Kinnock for advice and a shoulder to cry on in times of crisis, but the former Labour leader takes some pleasure in confirming that certain backbench anti- Majorites have canvassed his opinion about how to depose the PM.

'He is astonished,' his secretary admitted, 'by the number of Tory MPs who have approached him.' Kinnock told Business Age magazine: 'It's happening all the time. I had two of them only last night.

'I was having a discussion about the Child Benefit Agency with a couple of Tories and the conversation soon turned back to their basic worry - Major. They say to me it's their ambition to ditch him, if only they could find a way how.'

A DAY LIKE THIS

2 March 1885 Lewis Carroll writes to Alice (Liddell) Hargreaves, now 33 and married, for whom, 23 years before, he had written the Alice stories: 'I fancy this will come to you almost like a voice from the dead, after so many years of silence - and yet those years have made no difference, that I can perceive, in my clearness of memory of those days when we did correspond. I am getting to feel what an old man's failing memory is, as to recent events and new friends (for instance, I made friends, only a few weeks ago, with a very nice little maid of about 12, and had a walk with her - and now I can't recall either of her names]) but my mental picture is as vivid as ever, of one who was, through so many years, my ideal child-friend. I have had scores of child-friends since your time: but they have been quite a different thing.'

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