Diary: Alive and well and not amused

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HE THOUGHT he had done his homework, but one error has emerged in Michael Hastings's play Unfinished Business, an account of the right-wing antics of an aristocratic British family during the Second World War, now showing at the Barbican, London. He has discovered that one of the characters he refers to, albeit ambiguously, is alive, and not amused by what he has to say about her.

The woman in question is one Lady Alexandra Metcalfe (nee Curzon), 93-year-old sister of the late Cynthia Curzon, the first wife of the fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley. In the play (which is based on fact) the protagonist, Lady Sheffield, says of Mosley's wedding that it was the only wedding she had ever been to where the bridegroom had already slept with the bride's mother, her sisters, and all the bridesmaids.

Mr Hastings, however, says he has covered himself by obscuring which wedding he is referring to. 'Mosley was married twice; first to Cynthia Curzon in 1920 and then to Diana Mitford in 1934. I do not say which wedding it is.'

Luckily for Mr Hastings, a somewhat ruffled Lady Alexandra tells me she will not pursue the matter. But the suggestion that Hastings could be referring to Mosley's second marriage is considered by most insiders to be laughable.

'If he is seriously trying to suggest that Mosley slept with Lady Redesdale (Diana's mother), he must be barking,' one informs me. 'Everyone knows that she had a bad back and a moustache.'

THE librarian in charge of the Courtauld Institute's books has better things to do with her time (so she told students last week) than chase people who use their photocopying machine without paying. She chases them, none the less, hence a bill for 30p now winging its way to Norma Major.

Just regular folks

Just as Stephen Milligan went on the BBC's Newsnight programme to defend the Government's 'back to basics' campaign shortly before his death, so did Hartley Booth defend the Government's stance on family values before resigning hastily from the post of parliamentary private secretary to Douglas Hogg (whose wife, ironically, is credited with much of the thinking behind the campaign).

On 11 January, Mr Booth told Radio 2's programme Hayes Over Britain: 'We do try and tell the truth. And if there's a failing either with a lapse of truth at any point, or on any other matter, what you've got to say is that what you've got in Parliament today is a group of members of the public who have been promoted to this position in Parliament. It's a great privilege to be there, but we are only average, normal, ordinary people . . .' Much, I think, can be read between the lines.

PRIVATE secretary to Paddy Ashdown for three years, the briskly efficient Clare Conway has left the Westminster circus for a quieter life in the small town of Beverley, near Hull. With the Ashdowns in attendance, she has married a handsome chorister called, rather suitably, Mr Wright.

Thank you, world

Few Books are published without the names of odd people to whom the author will be eternally grateful for their moral support, typing skills, and so on. But one John Selby Spong, author of Resurrection, Youth or Reality, is determined that no one - or nothing - should be left out.

In a three-page acknowledgement, we have the mandatory tribute to the author's wife ('Words cannot adequately convey the depth of my love for her'), followed by tributes to 12 other relations. Then the serious business: the 'granddogs' - Flosshilde, Repo (short for Repurchase), Headstrong Samson and Axel Rodriguez Beasely; the 'grandcats' - Nina, Annie and Big Boy; then yet more relations, and their addresses (in case, presumably, we wish to meet them).


15 February 1945 Harold Nicolson writes in his diary: 'I attend a meeting in the House about Polish deportees. There are three escaped Poles there who tell us their stories. 1,230,000 Poles were deported (by the Soviets) and only 9 per cent got away afterwards. One really lovely woman tells us how her father, a bank manager, herself and her mother were put in cattle-trucks and sent to Kazan where they were made to work on the land. Her father disappeared. Another man tells us that he was in prison for eight months in Moscow on no charge. We ask what suspicion they had against them. The woman answers that she was a member of a Catholic society called the Daughters of the Virgin Mary, and that they kept bothering her to find out what political basis it had. The other woman says she had travelled and learnt languages. They said to her: 'But you cannot expect us to believe that anyone travels for anything but a political motive?' All this is convincing and profoundly disturbing.'