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The proof of the over-egged pudding

JOHN MAJOR knows how to talk to the man in the street, right? Information on just how he does it comes by way of Channel 4's Dispatches, which tonight will screen the results of six months' filming behind the scenes at the Foreign Office. Here's a discussion between civil servants planning Mr Major's speech for a press conference after the Birmingham summit in October. First panjandrum: 'What we have tried to do is to turn Stuart's list of areas where we might present benefits from the Community for the UK into demotic prose, to try and personalise and humanise them so that we achieve what we say we are trying to achieve at Birmingham, which is to make it all seem appealing and accessible to the average citizen.' Second panjandrum: 'I think we had better be a bit careful of over-simplification. I know we are into Daily Mirrorspeak . . .' First panjandrum: 'Daily Mailspeak.' Second panjandrum: 'Sorry, Daily Mailspeak, must be careful . . .' Daily Mailspeak turns out to be a demotic that involves the enthusiastic mixing of metaphors. Mr Major at that press conference: 'It is a Community of 12. No fast track, no slow track, no one left behind . . . The proof of the pudding is in the eating.'

MARGARET BECKETT, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, and her husband were held at knifepoint in their Derby house on Sunday and robbed of jewellery, credit cards and cash. But not, luckily, any of Mrs Beckett's wardrobe.

Coitus interruptus

MADONNA, we have to warn you, is hanging around bookshops again, wearing that notorious aluminium jacket. A second shipment of 120,000 copies of her book of rude photographs of herself has at last arrived for distribution to the Sex-starved British populace. You and I, of course, were bored of Sex before we'd even seen it, but there are some who even put their names - their real ones - down on waiting lists for the new batch. Distribution started yesterday morning, a day later than promised. This is strange, because the books were flown into Heathrow on Saturday night, and Secker and Warburg executives expected immediate customs clearance, since the volume had already been vetted for obscenity and so on. But customs sat on the shipment until 11.30pm on Monday. Why? Not, as has been wickedly suggested, because customs at Liverpool docks dealt with the first shipment, and the word had come down to their Heathrow colleagues that the book was well worth taking some time over. A customs spokesman says: 'If there was a delay, I suspect it was because of a hold-up on documentation.'

JEREMY ISAACS, director of the Royal Opera House, has a new worry. He was overheard, at the opening of The Tales of Beatrix Potter, complaining: 'I've got myself into the most terrible state of affairs. I keep being mistaken for Michael Winner.'

Nosey Parker?

THERE'S a darker side to rock stardom. We're grateful to Q magazine for revealing just how much pain there can be in living the lives of, say, Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, of the three- chord rockers Status Quo. Rossi told a tale of the early Eighties: 'I was staying at Rick's house, and we'd been in the studio doing a lot of coke, and he came down one morning and he looked like death, and he said: 'Oh man, my ----ing nose, for ---- 's sake, my nose hurts.' And then - dunk] - out his nose comes the centre piece of the pen we'd been snorting through. It had been up his nose all night.'

RITU MARWAH, sales manager of The Taj Group of Hotels, knows that a brave face must be put on the crisis in India. And so he's written to the BBC World Service's foreign desk: 'In the face of the current problems, we thought that someone from your publication might be visiting India.' If so, the Taj Group would be only too happy 'to assist with hotel reservations and offer you our special journalist rates'.

LORD YOUNGER, once of the Conservative Party, now of the Royal Bank of Scotland, presented Mr Major yesterday with a crisp example the RBS's Edinburgh Summit pounds 1 note. Which is selling for pounds 3. But not, one suspects, to the Germans.


9 December 1936 Edith Oliver writes in her diary: 'The King is the one conversation. He seems as mad as George III. Abdicated once, then tore it up, has now abdicated again. Apparently by English law Mrs Simpson is not yet divorced from either of her husbands and would be a Trigamist if she married him. Patricia says the King had injections to make him able to have children and it is these which have sent him mad. I now begin to want him to abdicate although a great renunciation of his 'love' would make him wildly popular. If he's really mad - throwing things about - he could not sustain that and rule well afterwards. Everyone says that opinion has completely changed in these two days and the common people are now against him because they now won't have her. It's appalling for the Yorks.'