Diary: BBC not taken by chessman Large

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The Independent Online
WE HAVE grown accustomed to the on-board histrionics of the world's chess grandmasters, but we're still unused to the erratic behaviour being shown by those trying to get Nigel Short and Garry Kasparov together. Earlier this month we reported that Dominic Lawson, the editor of the Spectator, had warned our chess correspondent against naming a firm that had bid to put on the world chess championship - now we gather BBC Enterprises has given short shrift to Times Newspapers, who met them last week to discuss television rights.

The five-minute meeting ended, we gather, because the Times lawyer was accompanied by a representative of the co-sponsors, Teleworld of Rotterdam, called Rod Large.

The BBC was unimpressed, not just because Large was trying to sell an idea (a viewers' phone-in) that the corporation had long since thought up for itself; nor because the going rate for television rights should be between pounds 40,000 and pounds 100,000 (Large had suggested pounds 750,000); but also because the BBC producer could not differentiate between the Large sitting in front of him and the man of the same name who was relieved of his responsibilities by the British Chess Federation in the run-up to the 1986 world championship.

WE KNOW David Mellor doesn't want to be a cabinet minister again (why else is he attacking Hurd, Rifkind et al over Bosnia), but does he want to be respected by the literati? In his patronising, take-it- from-me-mate Guardian column last Friday, Mellor began thus: 'The pathetic fallacy is said to be attributing to animals the thought processes and feelings of man.'

Really? John Ruskin, for one, would have disagreed: the 19th- century essayist coined the phrase 'pathetic fallacy' while criticising romantic writers who attribute human feelings to landscapes (he disputed Wordsworth's theory that 'every flower enjoys the air it breathes'.) Try 'anthropomorphism', David, mate.

Free plug for Virgin

RICHARD BRANSON is usually pretty direct in his dealings with British Airways (as you know, it's not always reciprocated), but we would like to see the fine print in any future settlement with Lord King over the dirty tricks affair.

Customers boarding a British Airways flight last Tuesday were baffled to find that their free copies of the London Evening Standard had been tampered with. Without exception, the bottom inch of every front page had been folded back to expose the following advert on page three: ' pounds 199 New York return. (Will the last person to leave the country please turn the lights out?)' We know BA has not ruled out advertising on Branson's new Virgin commercial radio station, but how did Branson persuade his rival to promote his own airline on a BA flight?

A bottle of Lanson champagne will go to the first person on that flight - BA2467, departure 2040, Madrid to Gatwick - who clears up the mystery.

YOU MAY know John Townend as the chairman of the Tory backbench finance committee, but his constituents see him more as a pig man (there are probably more pigs per square foot in Bridlington than in any other constituency). Aware of this, Townend has been campaigning for British bacon, castigating those wicked enough to prefer the Danish version (including the eating places in the House of Lords). In the light of this, we're sure the catering manager of the Willerby Manor Hotel, who has been serving up Danish bacon, will get the message and pass it on to his chairman - who is one John Townend MP.

Heat on the 'Sun'

HEARING that a Northern Ireland firm of solicitors plans this week to issue writs on behalf of up to seven men following an article in the Sun, the diary sought further information. The story, giving details of 13 men under the headline 'IRA's evil untouchables', was presented by the reporter Brendan Malinsky without the names, and with the instruction 'please lawyer' marked on the copy three times. However the assistant editor, Neil Wallis, after insisting that Malinsky name names, removed the instruction from the top of the story and sent it through for publication.

A DAY LIKE THIS

20 April 1947 Mina Curtiss records a visit to Illiers with Celeste Albaret, Proust's housekeeper: 'The conversation on the way back was fascinating. From casual chatter and jokes about Proust's friends, Celeste's wonderful mimicry of them, the talk would suddenly, without any transition, fall into her characteristic pattern of formal courtesy. Somehow she brought up the subject of French indifference to her master's work when it first appeared, in contrast to British and American appreciation. She spoke of how happy it had made Proust to receive letters from abroad after the publication of Swann's Way, when at home not even his friends could be bothered to read this strange, difficult book. He had been particularly delighted with a letter from an English novelist whom he much admired. Could Celeste remember the writer's name? 'Why yes, Madame, I think it was a M. Henri Jammes.' '

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