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THEY'RE rather a disappointment, the clutch of faded Sixties types who've signed today's advertisement for the decriminalisation of cannabis in the Times, a 'with-it' newspaper. There's not a Beatle among them and only one MP (Tony Banks): the first ad, published 25 years ago today, was much glitzier. But among the bores and addle- brains - sorry, that should read 'foot soldiers at the heart of progress' - the names of a disturbing number of serious journalists stick out. Dr Vernon Coleman of the Sun, for instance, and Rupert Pennant- Rea, editor of the Economist. And down the list there's also one Howard Marks. He, you may remember, was the cannabis smuggler convicted in 1990 and sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment, after a two-decade career during which he smuggled more tons of spliff than anyone in history. And made an awful lot of money. Now he's signing a petition that, if acted upon, would do him out of business] Can there be any doubt that, even if the stuff doesn't rot your brain, it will make you absurdly selfless and quite sickeningly 'mellow'?

SKYPORT News, the Heathrow airport staff magazine, tells a sad tale this week of a Jewish gentleman who, having won a free transatlantic ticket, gave it to his sister to use. Sadly security staff noticed a discrepancy between the names on the ticket and the passport, and stopped her. The headline on this? 'Rabbi tries to screw Virgin.'


One of the odder aspects of the Mellor affair is the role of Paul Halloran, the matchmaker who brought his friends the Minister for (good, clean) Fun and Antonia de Sancha together. Halloran as Cupid first introduced the couple some five years ago: it was at a dinner with Halloran just before the election that their love appears to have blossomed. Meanwhile Halloran as journalist, his other job, is one of Britain's top dirt-dishers. Instrumental in the delivery of the story about Jeffrey Archer and the prostitute Monika Coghlan to the News of the World, he's also a key member of the staff of Private Eye. Halloran's failure to deliver the political scandal of the decade so far (there's some time to go, don't worry) has raised the odd eyebrow at the Eye - indeed the editor, Ian Hislop, is said to be deeply embarrassed as he watches the world assume he was too chicken to run the story. Hislop has told his staff not to comment on the matter: 'It reflects very badly on us. These leaks must stop,' he has announced, without apparent irony. Halloran's defence, reportedly, is that his mate Mellor only told him what was going on just before the People published its revelations last Sunday. Meanwhile, in the Eye offices, 'Snufflehound' Halloran is being advised to sue the People for calling him Mellor's 'trustworthy lackey', on the grounds that to be called 'trustworthy' is deeply insulting to a man in his line of work.

OVERHEARD (honest]) in Tesco's, Brixton, the greengrocery section. A couple compares the extra-fine beans, marked Produce of Kenya, with the mangetout from Zambia. At last a decision is made: 'I suppose we better have the mangetout, the drought's worse there.'


Back at the Times, they've appointed their first Essex Man as editor. Great Baddow-born Peter Stothard owes his relatively meteoric rise - he is 41 - to Harry Evans, the shortest-lived editor of the paper. Evans plucked Stothard from Shell International in the late Seventies to work for the Sunday Times, after being introduced to him by Tina Brown, a close friend of Stothard's wife, the novelist Sally Emerson. When Evans became editor of the Times he persuaded Anthony Holden, his newly appointed features editor, to accept Stothard as his deputy. The features department, which also included Nicholas Wapshott, was known at the time as 'the wunderkindergarten'. When Evans, and Holden in solidarity, left the Times in 1982 it was felt that Stothard might have gone with them. But he stayed and went on to become joint deputy, and US editor. But the dust seems to have settled. Last August, Emerson became godparent to the Evanses' second child.


24 July 1765 Denis Diderot writes to Sophie Volland: 'Do not over-educate is a maxim particularly suited to boys. You should abandon them a little to their natural impulses. I prefer them to be rough, thoughtless, and wilful. Let them have the sort of appearance that suits them. If in their foolish behaviour I see some sign of originality, I am satisfied. To my mind one of our unlicked provincial bear-cubs is worth a hundred of your little well-trained spaniels. When I see a boy who listens to himself talking and holds his head up properly and walks correctly and is afraid of getting a hair out of place or a crease in his clothes, the parents may be in raptures and say, 'What a dear little boy we have', but I say, 'He will never be anything but a fool'.'