Diary

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The Independent Online
Open up your heart, Mr Neil

Susie Orbach, therapist in need to the Princess of Wales, certainly became a household name after that Panorama show. Television appearances by the feminist media shrink, however, have been almost non-existent.

What a shame, then, that on a rare appearance tonight, on Andrew Neil's The Midnight Hour, the celebrity psychotherapist will be preaching to the converted. Ms Orbach is appearing to promote her new venture, Antidote, a "think-tank with an unconventional agenda". The organisation is designed to increase the "emotional literacy" of politicians, who should, she believes, "open up" and explain their feelings to each other.

A thoroughly commendable venture. There can be little doubt that Nicholas Soames MP, to name but one critic of Diana's Panorama performance, might benefit from a little emotional advancement. But who will Ms Orbach be encouraging to open up tonight? Only Charles Kennedy MP, notoriously garrulous talk media darling, and Tessa Jowell MP, Labour's spokesperson for women's issues - not to mention presenter Andrew Neil, whose emotional enthusiasm, so to speak, is not exactly repressed.

There are surely more emotionally troubled members who really could have learned a lot from Ms Orbach's wise words. Gordon Brown perhaps and maybe Peter Mandelson?

The old stand-up, head-down routine

The choice is yours. Become the new Harry Enfield or Eddie Izzard. Or get a grade A in geography. Sixteen-year-old Simon Amstell from Ilford in Essex has chosen the latter. Simon entered the BBC Comedy awards for stand-up comedians by sending a video to the selection team. They were so impressed that they arranged a live gig for him. They were even more impressed with that and told him he had won a place in the London final held last night which could lead to a television spot.

Simon - and I hope he doesn't wake up screaming about this in 10 years' time - despairingly informed them he couldn't make it. Don't they know this is GCSE Study Week?

"The panel was stunned," said a spokeswoman for the awards yesterday. "It's such a pity. But he is taking his GCSEs very seriously."

So no comedy award for young Simon - but promotion to head prefect at the very least, I trust.

Redwood revives the fascists' rallying cry

Action Not Words, the title of John Redwood's new book of speeches is, as I pointed out last week, also the title of Sir Edward Heath's 1966 election manifesto, a point the far from Heathite Mr Redwood seems to have overlooked. But a reader from Hampshire, DM Kenyon, reminds me that it has an even older pedigree. "Action Not Words" was a slogan of the British Union of Fascists in the Thirties, something that both Mr Redwood and Sir Edward may have forgotten.

Jeers for the FA Cup cheerleaders

Wembley and the FA remain unrepentant about the ludicrous spectacle of American-style cheerleaders at the FA Cup Final.

When I asked a Wembley Stadium spokesman about it, he replied indignantly: "They weren't the American sort of cheerleaders at all. They didn't put their hands up in the air."

Superbrat on the NY art scene

Water lilies? Just water lilies? A whole room of water lilies?

You cannot be serious!

John McEnroe has made the unlikely transition from brat genius of the Centre Court to art collector with his own gallery in the fashionable SoHo district of New York and a $300,000 Renoir among the paintings within. In the new edition of the American art magazine Artnews, he tells how his conversion came about. It was at a junior tournament in Paris in 1977 when he was 18.

"I remember a Monet at a museum in Paris and thinking, I don't understand this guy at all ... I got up real close to the painting. I couldn't make out anything. But then, of course, it started to dawn on me as I got further away. I thought, this is a different story back here. Over the course of the summer I realised, 'Wait a second. This Impressionist stuff is good'."

If the BBC wants a follow-up to The Story of British Art, they could do no better than Mr McEnroe on the Impressionists.

Eagle Eye

Between flats? Try this, only pounds 50,000 a year

One-upmanship in home renting must be stately home renting. The 19th Duke of Somerset, John Seymour, has decided that one country house is better than two. Consequently, he is offering his 15-acre Wiltshire residence (above), valued between pounds 2m and pounds 3m, on a five- to seven-year lease, possibly with an option to renew. He and his family will be residing permanently at their Devon estate. Andrew Macpherson, responsible for handling the rental, is enthusiastic that the ideal tenant should be a private individual with a small business, or possibly someone who has been posted in Britain and is able to appreciate the grandeur of an English country house. And can stump up pounds 50,000 a year.

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