Diary

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Attali develops the art of banking

STEALTHILY, and without a word to the press, Jacques Attali has been spending more money at his European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Still reeling from last week's onslaught following the revelation that the bank had spent pounds 55.5m on fitting out its new London offices rather than investing the money in struggling Eastern European economies, Attali has now sanctioned an expensive art exhibition which will open on Thursday in the lobby of the Exchange Square building, near Liverpool Street, for the benefit of staff and friends.

To console them for their torrid week, staff will be able to admire icons on loan from the State Museum of Sacred Art and the Hermitage, the renowned museum and art gallery in St Petersburg. And they do need consolation: it's a long time since their pounds 100,000 Christmas party, held at the same time as a party for their children at the Hyde Park Hotel, and even longer since they let their hair down last July to celebrate Bastille Day.

THOSE teachers agreeing to test 11-year-olds on their English will know by now that John Patten is keen on the correct use of language, not mistaking singular for plural and so on. So Patten was probably just giving them a trial run when in a letter to all schools, he expressed his inspectors' view that the 'Assessment, practice and testing has (sic) been thorough'.

Moving image JUST as the sale of bricks acts as an indicator for recessions, the popularity of a politician can often be gauged by inspecting the models at Madame Tussauds, or its regional equivalents. Take Margaret Thatcher. For the last two years, the Friargate Wax Museum in York has hidden the Thatcher model (complete with 23,000 individual strands of hair) in a storeroom, a nostalgic relic from a bygone age. But then came her emotional broadside against the West over Bosnia.

Now, by popular demand - the tourists and locals besieged the place, demanding to know where she was - the Lady has been restored to her previous home, standing on the steps of No 10. Her successor, meanwhile, is not quite in the storeroom, but halfway there; he is clinging on to the No 10 railings with a desperate air. Nothing desperate about that curious ginger-haired window-cleaner though - he seems resigned to his new job. Those freckles remind us of someone we once knew.

WHEN Derek Walcott won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year, he had grand plans about what he would do with the dollars 1m prize money (awards for the arts, give money to the Trinidad Theatre Workshop and set up a writers' retreat called the Rat Island Foundation). But that was before the drop in value of the Swedish kroner. According to the Voice magazine, Walcott, who lives in Boston, has lost nearly dollars 400,000 because of the devaluation and the interest in his winnings by the US taxman.

Quiz swizz RADIO news quizzes have always been competitive, but now they're getting dirty too. Next Monday, listeners will plug into The Year in Question, a Radio 4 programme featuring teams from IRN and Radio 1's Newsbeat. They recorded the programme last Friday, but only by a whisker. Three days before the recording, Newsbeat received a fax purporting to be from the company responsible for the programme, Testbed Productions: it informed them that the year they would be questioned about - both teams were given prior notice of the year to enable them to mug up - had been changed from 1953 to 1973.

Panic in the Newsbeat newsroom, but only for a while: an irate team- member rang Testbed Productions to complain, only to discover the fax number belonged to their adversaries at IRN. Not to be outdone, Newsbeat retaliated with its own forged fax, purporting to come from the show's producer, banning IRN from taking part.

GROUP 4 is resigned to losing more prisoners - or so we assume. The company's training arm, Group 4 Securitas Training Ltd, is currently offering its managers 'free outdoor management development weekends'.

A DAY LIKE THIS

21 April 1935 Julia Strachey writes in her diary: 'Easter at Biddesden. In the library after dinner Stanley Spencer perched himself on a high chair and held the floor, talking all evening without stopping, while we all lolled around him on sofas. He told us how his picture of the crucifix and the weeping Magdalen came to be painted. He had heard a phrase, 'women wept on the high roads and strong men broke down in the side streets', and it was this phrase that inspired him. Afterwards he showed me photographs of his pictures; in one a dustman was being honoured 'by a girl holding up a cabbage straight from the dustbin'. He added that it had been painted with 'an obscene urge. Some animal force which I never had in the old days is using me now. Just look at that old cabbage; the stump is all cut away and there's a great tongue hanging out, isn't there? No wonder they consider me obscene at the Academy.' '

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