STUDENTS belong in bars or behind them, of course, and so it's pleasing to learn that two Oxford colleges are competing to house their inmates behind the walls of the city's ancient prison. One of the university's less well- known colleges, St Peter's, has already offered to buy the jail, which includes a Norman crypt, tower and mound, for around pounds 5m and convert its 144 surprisingly spacious cells - they are 12 inches larger than current norms for newly built university accommodation - into bed-sitting rooms for undergraduates. Now, however, we understand that Nuffield, a nearby postgraduate college, has also entered the fray with the idea of using the cells for the same purpose. After closing as a local remand prison last year, the jail was used as an overflow centre for Wormwood Scrubs until this January. At the moment, according to Rob Bradshaw, president of St Peter's junior common room, all the second years and some of the third years have to live out of college because of a severe shortage of accommodation. 'I don't think it will be a bit grim,' he says. 'There are catering facilities, a gymnasium. If the rooms are done out nicely it won't matter at all. The cells are quite roomy.'
RODNEY BICKERSTAFFE, the only union leader credited with being able to do 'joined-up shouting', entitled a recent lecture: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? He says that in his native Doncaster this translates into: 'Just because you read the Guardian, don't think we're not watching you.'
Just a free puff WE TRIED so hard to get Virginia Bottomley to tell us how to stop smoking yesterday. It was said that she would be giving a very special service to anguished puffers on National No Smoking Day, fielding calls on the Quitline (071-487 3000), a counselling service for those who want to kick the habit. At 11.45, when she was due to start answering calls, a Quitline counsellor told us: 'It will be very difficult for you to speak to her personally. There are 15 people manning the phones. The calls just go in rotation. I am sorry to disappoint you. I could pretend to be Virginia Bottomley if you like.' So we tried a little later. 'She's not here yet. I believe she will take one call, but it's at random.' At 12.25 a third counsellor said: 'She is here. I am not sure if she is taking calls. I am pretty sure that she is not taking calls. I will check on that. Hold on. No, I am sorry, she's not taking calls. As far as we know she is only going to be taking a rigged call for press purposes. It's a pity because we have had quite a few people trying to speak to her.' And we only wanted to pretend to be Kenneth Clarke.
ONE GROUP that was, undeterred, making like exhaust pipes yesterday was Lord Mason of Barnsley's Lords and Commons Pipesmokers' Club: 'It is a pity that intolerant elements are seeking to impose their anti- smoking opinions on our democratic society and are using National No Smoking Day as the thin end of the wedge.' Lord Mason, a former Labour minister, has other hobbies: fly-
fishing and cravatology (or tie designing), according to Who's Who.
The third way INTRODUCING the Lloyds Bank Film Challenge, by which teenagers will soon be making movies for Channel 4, Emma Freud was commendably candid. 'There are only three ways to get into films in Britain,' she said. 'Have a parent with connections, sleep with a director, or the Lloyds Bank Challenge. Having tried two of these, I'm now pleased to be associated with the third.'
GET READY, Surbiton. The novelist Wendy Perriam made the terms of her will public yesterday - and somone in Surbiton could be lucky. She told Radio 4's Midweek programme: 'I've left a bequest to the last person in the longest queue at Surbiton post office. I've often fumed in that queue and I thought it would be rather nice if someone tapped them on the shoulder and told them you've been left a large amount of money.' But don't rush: Perriam's only 53.
Rio rip-off A COLLEAGUE returns from Rio de Janeiro, appalled at being charged dollars 5 to change dollars 100 into cruzeiros by a local bank. Its name? Banco Goldmine.
A DAY LIKE THIS
11 March 1912 Captain Scott on the way back from the South Pole, writes in his journal: 'Titus Oates is very near the end, one feels. What we or he will do, God only knows. We discussed the matter after breakfast; he is a brave fine fellow and understands the situation, but he practically asked for advice. Nothing could be said but to urge him to march as long as he could. One satisfactory result of the discussion; I practically ordered Wilson to hand over the means of ending our troubles to us, so that any one of us may know how to do so. Wilson had no choice between doing so and our ransacking the medicine case. We have thirty opium tablets apiece and he is left with a tube of morphine.'Reuse content