DIARY / An ongoing case of writers' block

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The Independent Online
SOMEWHERE in Turnpike Lane, north London, a magazine publisher called Gayle Nathan will at some stage read this item, then ignore it. The publisher of Writers' Monthly, a magazine aimed at helping people to earn a living from their quills - and owned by a writing school advertised in national newspapers - has become a bete noire among established novelists such as Rona Randall, who regard the title as a misnomer.

Randall and other writers are, or have been, in dispute with the magazine after penning commissioned articles on how to write and sell work for profit - and then failing to receive prompt payment themselves.

Supported by the influential Society of Authors, which has warned its members about possible non- payment by the magazine in its house journal, The Author, Ms Randall is one of many campaigning against the magazine. Taking up her claim for pounds 130 - she wrote a feature writing realistic dialogue - the society has told Nathan that 'yet another member has contacted us about payments owed by Writers' Monthly . . . it is a ridiculous waste of everyone's time for the society to have to write to you so frequently about such problems - and, considering the nature of your journal, it is extremely ironic'.

Nathan was uncontactable yesterday. All I can pass on is the comment by her assistant editor, Amanda Armstrong: 'This is how we lose our authors . . . there's only one cheque book, and that's the one in Gayle's handbag.'

MONSIGNOR Alfred Gilbey, the 93-year-old Catholic dignitary who has chosen to reside at the Travellers' Club since anyone can remember, is being accused - behind his back - of wasting bedroom space. The reason? He has converted at least one fairly good-sized room into a chapel, replete with candles, icons and pleasant-smelling odours. 'It's a disgrace,' said one member yesterday. 'Especially when, losing one's sense of direction slightly, one stumbles into it, hoping to find the gents.'

YOUR FAITHFUL SERVANT

Edward Leigh is no longer a minister because of his publicly expressed views about the less than right-wing persuasion (his perspective) of the Government. He is still rallying to the cause. A typed reply to a letter from a constituent reads: 'Thank you very much for your letter regarding the lowering of the age of consent for homosexual men. I am sorry to have to disappoint you but I believe that the status quo should remain. Yours sincerely, Edward Leigh.'

A postscript is added (in Mr Leigh's own writing): 'I might as well be honest. I am a practising Roman Catholic and I take the same view as the Pope on homosexuality. Please read his latest encyclical, which is a fine and noble document outlining the way to a normal life.'

Post-postscript from the Diary: the encyclical is 200 pages long.

FROM Palm Beach, Florida, news reaches me of a glamorous middle-aged Englishwoman, caught speeding on the highway. 'Excuse me, ma'am, you were speeding,' said the officer, flagging down her Rolls-Royce. 'Oh, I'm sorry,' replied the woman, instantly rolling down the window. 'I was listening to Bruce Springsteen.' A pause. 'But Madam,' said the officer, 'Bruce Springsteen wasn't driving.'

DEAD EASY BREAK-IN

Directing funerals is never an easy task, but things were even more complicated for one Liverpudlian in the trade when asked to return a 'full' coffin to the home of the deceased. Arriving at the door, he discovered the entrance was not wide enough to accommodate the load. 'We'll use the living- room window then,' said the deceased's widow. The director declared his uneasiness at such unusual proceedings. 'Listen,' came the retort. 'My husband was a burglar. He's been through more windows than you've had hot dinners. One more is not going to make any difference.'

A DAY LIKE THIS

27 January 1658 John Evelyn writes in his diary of the death of his son Richard: 'All artificial help failing, and his natural strength exhausted, we lost the prettiest and dearest Child, that ever parents had, being but 5 yeares and 3 days old in years but even at that tender age, a prodigie for Witt, and understanding; for beauty of body a very Angel, and for endownments of mind, of incredible and rare hopes. To give onely a little tast of some of them: at 2 yeare old he could perfectly reade any of the English, Latine, french or Gottic letters; pronouncing the first three languages exactly. He had before the 5th yeare not only skill to reade most written hands, but to decline all the Nouns, Conjugate the verbs regular, and most of the irregular: got by heart almost the intire Vocabularie of Latine and french, could make congrous Syntax, turn English into Latin; and vice versa.'

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