Diary: Legally, the price is right

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The Independent Online
ARTHUR NEGUS, of Antiques Roadshow fame, used to value items without worrying whether their owners would take him to court if his valuations were wrong. Sotheby's and Christie's do it all the time. But valuers have been guarded of late following a suit against Christie's claiming that they over-valued two paintings. Yesterday, however, the valuers' worst fears were dispelled when a High Court judge ruled in favour of the auctioneers.

Last March, Marguerita Bollaert, an Argentine, took out a High Court action against Christie's after claiming that the auctioneers had over-valued two paintings she had intended to buy and resell for profit. She claimed Christie's had valued the paintings, by the Spanish artist Sotomayor, at pounds 450,000 when their true value was pounds 40,000.

Ms Bollaert, 34, borrowed money at high interest rates to buy the paintings, Milking Time and A Sunlit Street in Bruges, and put them up for sale at Christie's, but neither received a bid. She was surprised at the lack of interest, because Christie's had assured her that one of them was likely to fetch a 'world record price'. Following the failure of the sale, Christie's retained the Bruges painting because it had given Ms Bollaert a pounds 23,500 advance, and Milking Time is being held in storage.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Otton dismissed the action alleging negligence and granted Christie's an order for costs. A Christie's spokeswoman said she thought the action was unprecedented: 'I have been here for five years and can't remember anything like this happening anywhere.'

BORIS YELTSIN lost more than his security minister when he sacked Viktor Barannikov, an old friend, for alleged corruption. According to US News & World Report, collegues said he had also lost his 'right-hand glass'.

THE BEST OF KEN

So confident is the actor William Roache (aka Ken Barlow of Coronation Street) that his life is not 'boring' - last year he successfully sued the Sun for claiming he was as dull as his on-screen persona - that he has put his story down on paper in an autobiography. The first instalment - there is more to come, you'll be glad to hear - will be only the start of his writing career. 'After all, life, like Coronation Street, keeps on going . . . so in a few years' time I can write another one,' he says.

The blockbuster - to be published on 14 October for those who want to start queuing - contains much of the actor's 'intimate' feelings and experiences. 'I do talk about the libel case in detail,' he says, 'as well as thirty-odd years on the set of Coronation Street . . . I just hope that readers get the point of the double entendre of the title.' With a line as subtle as My Life On the Street, I'm sure they will.

THE PEOPLE of Sarajevo have long since stopped expecting much of their local services - the bakery has closed down and the restaurants are gone. At the city's airport, immigration officials are so uncertain about flight arrivals and departures that they are stamping passengers' passports with the ever-hopeful imprint: 'Maybe Airlines, Sarajevo.'

MAJOR RECOVERY

The period between the Maastricht vote and the Christchurch by-election would not appear to have been a particularly triumphant for the Prime Minister. Strangely, however, bets during this time on John Major's fall from power, as measured by the IG Index, the City betting shop that specialises in politics, suggested an improvement in his fortunes. The predicted exodus is now between 3- 9 December, as opposed to 25 November to 1 December.

I DON'T want to worry would-be barristers waiting for their exam results, but these are due in nine days' time.

A DAY LIKE THIS

4 August 1945 Denton Welch writes in his diary about a day out in Kent: 'Now Eric and I drove to the ridge above Fairlawne and near Ivy Hatch. I came out on the private road that goes down to Ightham Mote. I walked slowly up into the village and there I waited in the village shop . . . while I was waiting I was able to notice the old woman before me. She looked poor and she had cloudy eyes and a thick swollen ankle under a black woollen stocking. But in her hand was an old malacca cane with a gold knob - old greenish, pinkish, shallow worn gold. It was dented, so one could tell that it was thin, but still gold is gold. It had lost its ferrule and was worn down. It looked like the stick of the city dandy come at last after 80 or 90 years to a labourer's cottage.'

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