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Artful way

with words

Lord Gowrie is in for a difficult month. As chairman of the Arts Council, which has suffered a cut in government money, he will shortly have to announce which theatres will lose cash and which will have to close altogether. But fear not. He has not been idle in preparing for the coming crisis.

He has sanctioned the council to spend some of its diminishing money on seminars for theatres, including the Royal Shakespeare Company, on how to be nice to people - or in Arts Councilspeak the "Customer Orientated Mission Statement and Strategy Systems".

"We're trying to get them to rationalise, monitor and evaluate. There's a lot about relating to the audience," said an Arts Council official. "We're making the customer feel they belong in that organisation, that there's a relationship there. It's all very well having wonderful art on the stage or walls but if they have difficulty getting tickets, parking cars, or the usher's rude, they're not going to come back again. Yes, it sounds like it's one of those silly ideas to waste money, but it isn't. It's a long-term strategy."

The long-term customer-orientated strategy presumably being: when there's no money in these straitened times, and artistic directors are putting on productions no one wants to see, blame the usher.

Bearded minority

My story about the Beard Liberation Front's call for a bearded Cabinet minister has led Labour Party sources to assure me that in Robin Cook they will be able to boast (election results permitting) the first bearded Cabinet minister for some years. Just how many years might surprise you. It seems that the last bearded Cabinet minister was none other than the first Fabian, Sidney Webb, who as Lord Passfield was Secretary for the Colonies in the 1929 Labour government. Since then governments have drifted into clean-shaven uniformity. Perhaps one beard on every shortlist is the answer.

Got the look

Eagle Eye was intrigued to read the "lifestyle study" published last week by the Edinburgh neuropsychologist Dr David Weeks, into 3,500 people who look younger than their age. After five years' research he concludes that frequent love-making may be a factor in postponing the symptoms of ageing. We put the matter to our sociological expert, who has just been elevated to the Ikea Chair of Comparative Lifestyle at the University of East Neasden.

"I suspect," he said, "that the Edinburgh research suffers from what we call a causality directional misattribution."

"What's that?" we asked.

"Cause and effect, dear boy," replied the professor. "My own stratified sampling has indicated that perceived beddability rises monotonically with the inverse of the senility coefficient. It is not so much that those who make love a good deal keep their good looks longest, but that those who stay young-looking get the most sex."

You'd never believe he was near retirement age.

Going west

Norfolk Museums Service had a particularly trendy plan to boost publicity for a new clothes exhibition. They invited fashion designer and former punk queen Vivienne Westwood to open it. "Her public role is at the cutting edge of the contemporary fashion industry," said Heather Guthrie of the Norfolk Museums Service. Unfortunately, the Museums Journal which recorded the opening of the exhibition for the rest of the museum world was not as conversant as Ms Guthrie with the cutting edge of contemporary fashion. They captioned the picture of the opening: "Vivienne Westwood, one of the older visitors to Norwich Castle Museum's shawl exhibition."

"My colleagues and I were somewhat dismayed," said Ms Guthrie. "As a self-confessed supporter of our cause and one who has publicly nailed her colours to the mast, she surely deserves better."

Perhaps Ms Westwood should be diplomatically assured that while being old is bad news in the fashion industry, it is the sine qua non of museum life.

Joking apart

I was recently invited on to BBC radio to debate the ethics of diary writing with the Guardian's Matthew Norman. Master Norman declined. He concluded his latest diary with a joke that the stalker who harassed Madonna was called Robert Hoskins and was not to be confused with BT's own Bob Hoskins, catchphrase "It's good to stalk". This bore a passing resemblance to an observation in the Independent the previous day by my colleague John Walsh that the American Robert Hoskins was not to be confused with BT's own Bob Hoskins, catchphrase "It's good to stalk". Rule 32b of diary ethics is: when nicking a joke, best allow more than 24 hours to pass.

Eagle Eye