Diary: Better concentrate at the new Tate]

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The Independent Online
THE new Tate Gallery in St Ives has received more plaudits for its architecture than for the art it contains, but even the design, I'm told, is not without its problems. Last week, Eldred Evans and David Shalev, the architects, instructed fitters to install extra posts between the aesthetically spacious banisters after a two-year-old child was discovered sliding down the stairs. More serious, however, was an earlier accident in which a German tourist was injured after falling down the steps at the front of the building.

Dick Perkins, the gallery co-ordinator, was initially reluctant to confirm either incident, and would say only that there was a 'small area towards the restaurant which does have a potential for difficulty'. Later, however, he conceded that the visibility of the grey steps may have been a contributing factor in the tourist's fall. 'It is an area that could provide difficulties for people who aren't concentrating,' he told me.

It is not only the visibility that is causing adverse PR for the gallery. Last month, I revealed that the slates surrounding the entrance were hewn from quarries in Brazil instead of ones nearby because of the difference in price ( pounds 15,000 instead of pounds 45,000). Now I gather there has also been a cleaning problem, caused by sticky hand-prints that were disfiguring the aesthetic appeal of the gallery's walls. Mr Perkins said: 'The building is very complex and it needs to have a proper cleaning rota drawn up, which was impossible to do before the gallery opened. It is now being done by the council.'

MICHAEL HOWARD has many political friends dating back to his Cambridge days, I know, but he does have other acquaintances who don't receive the same publicity. Touring Brixton prison the other day, the Home Secretary called in on the kitchens where, according to the Oldie magazine, the following conversation took place. Howard: 'Hello, Bob, what are you doing here?' Bob: 'I got caught and you didn't, Michael.'


Sixty-six dancers, technicians and stage managers of the Royal Ballet have rounded on their own management following my item last Tuesday about the company's recent evening as guests of the British Embassy in Paris. In the item, the management 'graciously distanced' itself from criticisms of the embassy made by Lady MacMillan, the widow of the Royal Ballet's former principal choreographer, Sir Kenneth MacMillan. She had said the embassy had snubbed the company's dancers and singers by inviting them to a reception, only to leave them standing with only a few canapes to pick at while other guests were treated to a sit-down dinner. Not so, said the company's management. The Royal Ballet staff had not felt snubbed, and Lady MacMillan had got a few things wrong.

Now the footsore and hungry staff want their say: they tell me that having received a handsome, handwritten invitation to a buffet supper, they left the reception 'hungrier and more tired than when they had arrived . . . We would like notice to be taken that whatever 'a spokesman' may have cause to say, Lady MacMillan has truthfully defended this company, and we in our turn back her to the hilt.'

THE LORDS dealt a blow to the Government's plans to privatise British Rail last week, when they voted to allow BR to bid to run services. But BR is taking no chances, it seems, and is making one last attempt of its own to derail the Government's plans - with a rather nifty alteration in its October timetable. In its draft proposals, the number of off-peak trains stopping at a certain station in Dorset has been mercilessly slashed to one, instead of two London trains an hour. BR knows that many passengers in this area are elderly and therefore more likely to travel off- peak. So it is perhaps no coincidence that the station in Dorset is a place called Christchurch, where a vote against the Conservatives three days after the timetable is announced could just alter a few of the more unpopular features of John Major's programme. One would be VAT on fuel. Another could just be rail privatisation.


Another example of John Major's open government: a colleague tried to reach the Crown Prosecution Service in York yesterday, but failed. The number is ex-directory.


13 JULY 1915 Mildred Clark writes to her father from Fife: 'More spies] One was caught on Tuesday taking photographs of the Tay Bridge. There is a mania for them, for a few weeks ago the Bishop's daughter was going in for a French oral exam and asked the three Ramsays if she could go with them for an afternoon to speak French. As it was a lovely afternoon they went to Arbroath, intending to walk along the cliffs. They got into the train at West Ferry station, into a carriage where one man was sitting, and jabbered French all the way. They got out at Arbroath and had only gone a few steps when they were arrested by two policemen, who said their fellow traveller had reported that four suspicious-looking foreigners were in the town. Fortunately, Miss Robertson had one of the Bishop's cards with her, and they were allowed to go on the cliffs.'