Diary: Executives just want to have fun

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The Independent Online
IN RESPONSE to accusations made in a Sunday paper last week by Nicholas Coleridge, the managing director of Conde Nast, that the British have lost their capacity for fun - he accused us all of going to bed early and not spending enough time at Ascot - I refer him to sugar manufacturers Tate & Lyle, who, it seems, will go to unusual lengths to protect their corporate entertainment.

When the outlook from the company 'castle', a 90-year-old building situated just north of Edinburgh, came under threat from an American mining company seeking permission to delve in the area, senior executives moved into action. Motivated partly by the knowledge that the castle and its surrounding land has always been a particular favourite of chairman, Neil Shaw, they drummed up a public relations executive to double as an agent provocateur. His mission: to alert local people to the impending disaster. In the end, according to one observer, the locals didn't need provoking. So fierce was their lobbying that the mining plans were rejected - Tate & Lyle execs can continue their grouse shooting in peace.

'DO YOU know who I am?' shouted the woman, sans security pass, who was late for her slot on Sky Television's live Talkback programme yesterday. Obviously not. Teresa Gorman, Tory MP and author of Bastards, finally made it on to our screens seven minutes before the end of the show.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY

Miss X - to save her blushes - is recovering from what must be one of the more nightmarish travel experiences of 1993. Last Sunday evening, she persuaded a policeman to stand guard over her illegally parked car for 10 minutes outside Victoria station while she put her elderly relative - zimmer frame, suitcases et al - on the Gatwick Express.

After depositing the relative in a seat with seconds to spare and making for the train door, a guard interceded with 'Oh no you don't,' and slammed the door shut just as the train started to move. There was more in store. In response to another guard's request for her fare, she cried: 'But I don't want to be on this train]' only to be told: 'You're lucky I'm not giving you a pounds 200 fine,' and issued with a pounds 28 ticket.

Miserably, Miss X caught the next train back to Victoria, where she had to pay pounds 90 (and a pounds 30 parking ticket) to unclamp her car. As a final insult, she found this note on the car from her policeman: 'People like you are the pits of the earth. I put my trust in you and you betrayed that. Your car has been a major security risk. You're the kind of person who makes our job a nightmare.'

HAVING resigned from GMTV, the breakfast television company, following complaints about her apparent lack of fanciability (the F-factor), newscaster Fiona Armstrong has been recuperating in Dumfriesshire, penning a book on fly fishing. It was to have been titled From Newscaster to Flycaster, but Armstrong, piquantly, has changed it to F is for Fly-fishing.

BAFFLED OF SURBITON

WITH The Good Life being repeated on television, most viewers will know where the series is located. But not so a Portuguese translator, who wrote to Pavilion publishing recently with a query about a book, Fantastic Stories, by Monty Python's Terry Jones. 'On the last page of the story 'Tom and The Dinosaur', the last word is 'Surbiton',' wrote the translator. 'Could you please tell us if this is the name of anything that really exists or if the sound of the word is significant, and in that case what does the author mean by it? Or is it just an invented word with no special meaning?' According to the Bookseller, Pavilion's Pamela Webb was able to enlighten her, informing the translator that Surbiton was 'a particularly boring place just south of London'.

A DAY LIKE THIS

7 October 1918 Dora Carrington writes to Virginia Woolf: 'Dear Virginia, Lytton (Strachey) (like some King whose name I forget, but I learnt a long poem about him when I was a child) went to bed and never smiled again until your letter came. Then he laughed outright very loud five times. And the second time he read it, ten minutes later, he laughed seven times. So will you write again? If you only knew his state of complete despair, as only a Strachey can despair, and utter misery, your pen would not remain idle. His hand is a little better today. But much too swollen to write with yet. Where did Goldie have his shingles? My conversation now is entirely on that subject. Unfortunately to Lytton's chagrin, only innkeepers, charwomen and chemists' assistants seem liable to the foul disease. So your news of Goldie's suffering raised his spirits a little.'

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