Diary: Going to ze art of ze matter

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The Independent Online
President Chirac of France (below) will today address members of both the Commons and the Lords in the Royal Gallery at Westminster. I advise him to take a blinkered approach, look straight ahead and not give a sideways glance at the artwork. If he does look around, this is what he will see: a massive 45ft by 12ft picture by the Victorian artist Daniel Maclise of Wellington presiding over a pile of dead Frenchmen after the Battle of Waterloo. Immediately opposite - the victorious Nelson at Trafalgar.

What is a patriotic Frenchman to do? When Charles De Gaulle was being entertained in the Royal Gallery in the Sixties, he knew exactly what to do. He made a hell of a fuss when he caught sight of the first picture, and an even bigger fuss when he caught sight of the second. Can we expect a diplomatic incident today? I gather an advance team from the French Embassy has been in to inspect and has made no complaint. A spokesman in the Foreign and Commonwealth press office was also unperturbed: "Chirac is a great admirer of all things British. He holds the British Military in high regard, he is trying to copy it." And there is one small consolation for the French. The painting of Nelson is his death scene.

Keeping criticism in the family

A heartwarming response from Virginia Bottomley, the Heritage Secretary, during her visit to the Cannes film festival. Asked why she wasn't supporting the British director Mike Leigh, whose new film Secrets And Lies opens on Friday, she replied: "Because my daughter told me Trainspotting was the one to see." There was I, thinking that ministers, civil servants, the British Film Institute et al got together to decide these things. I am delighted to learn that it's all down to family values after all.

Dream on, Liverpool

Rob Jones, the Liverpool and England full-back, was one of the footballers who had poems published in a new book to raise money for charity. His poem, entitled "Don't Give Up On Your Dreams", exhorts us: "So the moral of this tale/ Never think you will fail/ Your dream can come true/ Whatever it is you want to do." Immediately after publication, Liverpool lost the Cup Final, and now Jones has heard he will miss the European championships because of a back injury.

With friends like these...

Et Tu Terry? With criticising the BBC now seemingly de rigueur in the Radio Times, Mr Eurovision Song Contest himself has decided to give his pay masters nul points. Terry Wogan (right), no less, shoots from the hip in the new issue, as he describes the ending of his chat show. "I wanted to give it up a year before I did, in 1992," he says, "but the BBC refused. Then they sold me short and sacrificed me for Eldorado, which allowed the press to say 'Wogan axed'. I felt peeved by the insensitivity - no, incompetence - with which it was handled. But what kind of fool am I to expect competence from a huge monolith?"

So ... buy the Radio Times and read all about those "stupidvision" programmes put out by the incompetent BBC.

Poetry is its own reward

The large advertisements being taken out by The International Society of Poets for their Open Amateur Poetry Competition must be bringing dreams of riches to aspiring versifiers. But the more numerate poets might be as unimpressed as I am by their boast that "in recent years the Society has awarded more than pounds 60,000 in prize money to more than 5,000 poets worldwide." I make that an average award of pounds 12. Don't give up the day job just yet.

Beef up the humour

Sir Kenneth Calman, the Government's Chief Medical Officer and the man who starts every conversation with the words "I will continue to eat beef," has added a touch of humour to his armoury, I hear. Addressing a meeting of doctors at the Civil Service College, he announced: "The good news is I can confirm it is safe to eat jelly babies - provided you don't eat the brain or spinal cord. "I suppose satire might work. Nothing else has.

Pulp fashion

"Hey man. We're walkin' here. Cross the sidewalk or we waste ya." The Princess of Wales has known many incarnations. But what divorce lawyer would dare argue with the Tarantino look, on display in some newspapers this week. At first glance, all the classic trademarks look in place. Blazer, roll-neck, Ray-Bans - no great fashion departure there, you might think. But narrow your eyes, take another glance - and what do you see? Princess Diana and her fearsome-looking confederates ... doing their impersonation of Reservoir Dogs. (I will, of course, avoid the female equivalent title). Catherine Soames, Kate Menzies and Diana (above) are no longer to be known by their civilian names. Here on, for reasons of personal security, they shall be referred to, in character, as Ms Pink, Ms Brown and Ms Blonde. Approach at your peril.