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And why weren't we invited?

MIKHAIL Gorbachev may feel he has left dissent at home when he flies to Britain for a four-day tour next month, but I fear this is not the case: when he arrives at the University of Edinburgh on 6 December to deliver a lecture on the future of Europe, he will find unrest among academics in the university's Russian department, none of whom have been allocated tickets to hear the great man speak.

The hall where he will speak seats 2,000, but the 1,500 public tickets sold out in 24 hours, leaving Michael Falchikov, senior lecturer in Russian, and his colleagues with only the hope of being allocated one of the remaining 500 VIP seats by the organisers, Lothian Regional Council. He will be demanding an explanation from the university's principal, Sir David Smith, and has protested to William Paterson of the Europa Institute, the academic adviser to the lecture series.

'None of us in the department knew anything about the lecture until I saw a small ad in the paper. When I followed it up two days later, I was told there were no more tickets,' said Falchikov. But Professor Paterson said the university was not to blame. 'The lecture will be paid for by Lothian Regional Council,' he said. 'The university can't afford to pay for a visiting lecturer of that calibre.' I'm not surprised. The former Soviet president charges more than Baroness Thatcher and George Bush, who, when last quoted, charged pounds 30,000 and dollars 100,000 an hour.

THE Royal Ulster Constabulary is leaving nothing to chance in its attempt to bring stability to the province. Among RUC numbers listed in the directory: rumour and information service, Belfast 651222.

A fitting response

MICHAEL Shea, the former press secretary to the Queen for nine years, and now a visiting professor in personal and corporate communications, has a book out next week on public and media relations. He is a sensitive soul, however (he never quite recovered from a briefing he gave to the Sunday Times that resulted in a story headlined: 'Queen dismay at uncaring Thatcher'), and will therefore disappoint readers buying the book for a whiff of royal scandal.

Why no mention of his former charges? 'The Royal Family are not really advocating causes when they stand up to speak,' he told me - an appropriate answer from a man who devotes much of his chapter on media interview skills to the 'turnaround technique', which, in lay terms, is 'being ready with responses rather than mere answers to questions'.

NO SUCH sensitivities at Carlton Television, however, where journalists from The Big Story set up 'peeping-Tom' cameras outside the homes and offices of the Mirror editors responsible for the gym pictures of the Princess of Wales. Although David Banks, the Daily Mirror editor, accepted the intrusion with some grace, David Montgomery, chief executive of Mirror Group, and Colin Myler, editor of the Sunday Mirror, were not so understanding. Montgomery tried to persuade Carlton executives to call off their team from his home, while Myler (or someone at his home) simply called the police.

A sobering choice

WITH last-minute touches being made to this year's government Christmas campaign against drinking and driving, the Evening Standard and the Berkeley Hotel are (unwittingly, I'm sure) being rather unhelpful in a joint promotion for New Year's Eve. In a readers' offer, the Standard yesterday promised a climax to the hotel's 21st birthday celebrations, with a champagne reception, a four- course dinner with wine and champagne at midnight. Tickets are pounds 200 a person 'and include parking for one car per couple in the Berkeley's garage'. There are, I can see, only two alternatives to driving home over the limit. One is tossing a coin to see who will sit through a pounds 200 event with only a mineral water. The other is to stay at the hotel. At pounds 550 per couple, my money is on the toss up.


11 November 1896 Anton Chekhov writes to Anantol Koni: 'You cannot imagine how happy your letter made me. I saw only the first two acts of my play from the front, after that I kept in the wings, feeling all the time The Seagull would be a failure. The night of the performance and the day after people asserted I had created nothing but idiots, that my play was clumsy from the standpoint of staging, fatuous, unintelligible. I was ashamed and annoyed and left St Petersburg brimming with doubts. I figured that if I had written and staged a play so obviously crammed with monstrous defects, I had lost all my senses and my machinery had apparently broken down for good. Your letter had a galvanising effect on me. I have known you a long time, esteem you profoundly and have more faith in you than in all the critics together.'