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Great adventures for the recess

DO MPs take holidays? Does Judith Chalmers have a passport? This year our representatives will enjoy their longest summer break ever (91 days), but what will they be doing with all this free time? Telephone calls to a random sample of 45 MPs reveal that, of those prepared to reply, 33 per cent will be venturing abroad. The largest slice of these are off to France - one prays that there are no further outbreaks of listeria poisoning or Lorry Drivers' Block. As many again will of course 'stay in their constituencies', while the rest plan a range of activities - 4.5 per cent (Michael Stern) will ramble around the Lake District and Yorkshire, while another 4.5 per cent (Neil Hamilton) stay at home with the in-laws. A secretary told us that the Labour MP Paul Flynn expected to pass the time at 'a druids' convention in Aberystwyth', which was mysterious, until Flynn explained that meant dropping in at the national Eisteddfod. Nigel Evans, the new Tory member for Ribble Valley, will be spending the next two weeks working in the Swansea newsagent run by his sister and aunt. For those Labour MPs of a die-hard nature who have yet to plan a holiday, could we suggest the New Statesman &

Society Cuba Study Tour, organised by Progressive Tours Ltd. For pounds 585 you can visit a state farm, a sugar port, a school teaching English, and meet with a local grass-roots committee for the defence of the Revolution. It's worth defending, of course. Not least because it would cost you pounds 1,057 for nine nights in Cuba, via Jamaica, as an ordinary capitalist with Thomson Holidays.

A THOUGHT on toe jobs. It was Dominic Prince, acting City editor of the Sunday Express, who told the world that 'sucking guys' toes' was a favourite practice of Antonia de Sancha. Prince, a Mellor-lookalike, is of course an imaginative journalist, but can it be any coincidence that the first wife of his proprietor, Lord Stevens of Ludgate, once wrote a book titled Woman as Chameleon or How To Be an Ideal Woman, in which she said that a good way to greet a husband on his return from work was by 'kissing his toes and sucking them'. And, by the way, does anyone know if it works?

Sour grapes THERE are few people more politically correct than the wine writer. This week sees the publication of Pinot Noir, in Viking's series on grape varieties, which should 'include as many of the world's serious pinot noirs as possible'. But the author, Andrew Barr, omits Austrian wine, for, he says in his preface, 'reasons of morality. Unlike South Africa . . . there is no evidence that Austria is making efforts to reject its racist past.' Barr sets little store by the fact that Kurt Waldheim has recently been replaced as president by the younger Thomas Klestil, who was barely seven years old when the Second World War broke out. Should Barr ever grace your dinner table, go easy on the Austrian wine. 'As far as I know there is some good pinot noir. I might try some to taste, but if I was offered it at a dinner party I would definitely refuse it.'

THE advertising agency D'Arcy Masius Benton and Bowles is to be paid pounds 1m to try to sell the London Docklands to sceptics. It has come up with this slogan: 'Are you a knocker or a docker?' Can you come up with something better? We could all make a pitch to the London Docklands Development Corporation for the business.

The 'Sun' squawks A FUNNY chap, Kelvin MacKenzie of the Sun. Yesterday one of his minions rang this office with a message for Michael Leapman, who wrote a profile of MacKenzie in the Independent on Sunday. 'Leapman done a good piece of work, but 'e'll have to be a bit flasher before he gets a job 'ere,' squawked the messenger in the dreadful pseudo- cockney that Sun staff have to assume. Why, we wondered? Because Leapman, who thought he was interviewing MacKenzie by relaying questions through the deputy editor, Stuart Higgins, had in fact been speaking to MacKenzie in person. A fact that caused MacKenzie (a man who once proposed that a story about the machine-gunning of Tamil civilians be headlined 'Tamila Mowdown') endless hilarity. Which is a bit hard on Leapman - after all, they do all sound the same.

A US presidential election joke. Who goes 'Old MacDonald had a farm. Ee-eye-ee-eye-oh-ee.'? Dan Quayle, of course.


28 July 1653 Andrew Marvell, appointed tutor to a ward of Oliver Cromwell's, sends him a report on the boy: 'I have taken care to examine him several times in the presence of Mr Oxenbridge, as those who weigh and tell over money before some witness ere they take charge of it. For I thought that there might possibly be some likeness in the coin, or error in the telling, which hereafter I should be bound to make good. I shall only say that I shall strive to increase whatsoever talent he may have already. Truly he is of a gentle and waxen disposition. He hath in him two things which make youth so easy to be managed, modesty which is the bridle to vice and emulation which is the spur to virtue.'