Diary: Withdrawal from the pall of Nepal

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The Independent Online
AFTER 20 years of near suffocation by industrial smog and traffic pollution, tourists stopping off in Kathmandu en route for the clear air of the mountains may soon notice a change in the environment. The government of Nepal's capital seems to have decided that enough is enough; officials are thinking of seeking a new location for government buildings.

Founded in 723 and named Manju-Patan, Kathmandu ('city of wood') was renamed in 1596 following the building of a wooden temple - made from a single tree - which still stands in the central square and houses the country's holy men (sadhus). Over the years, the emphasis of the city has changed, with commerce increasingly superseding spirituality; that and the 300,000 petrol-guzzling, aircraft-flying tourists who flock to Nepal each year have combined to create pollution levels among the highest in the world.

So far, the government's plans are embryonic. 'We don't know yet where we would move to,' says a spokesman in their London embassy. 'Certainly the whole city cannot uproot. It would be the government and the main commercial buildings. The shrines would be left where they are.'

BRITAIN may rue its trouble- making over Europe, according to the Labour MEP for Greater Manchester East, Glyn Ford. Peering out of his window in Brussels, Mr Ford has noticed an anomaly. 'Outside the new parliamentary buildings there used to be 12 flagpoles, signifying each member state; now, in expectation of the four new members (Finland, Sweden, Austria and Norway) there are (long pause) 15. Does somebody know something we don't?'


Frustrated by her rather embarrassing failure to become a magistrate - her application was turned down, according to a report leaked last month - the Home Secretary's wife, Sandra Howard, has picked up the threads of an earlier career by stepping back on to the catwalk after a break of 20 years. The former model, whose svelte looks graced the cover of many magazines in the Sixties, was recently observed modelling hats at a charity lunch organised by the Women's International Zionist Organisation, which raises money for social projects in Israel. Michael Howard's mother, Hilda, is an active member of the charity, but I am told that his wife's contribution to the festivities was requested by the hat designer Graham Smith, an old friend of Mrs Howard, who was happy to oblige.

INVESTIGATING a suspected sudden death, Pc Paul Whiteley arrived at a house in Cleveland to find the lights on and loud music blaring. After knocking on the door to no avail, the officer noticed through a window the motionless body of an old lady sitting in a chair, so he drew his truncheon and tried to break down the front door.

He may well have caused more damage than he did if a colleague hadn't arrived to throw some light on the case. The old lady was a dummy, placed in a prominent position by the owner of the house as a deterrent to burglars.


For 52 years, the Second World War veteran John Donohue has been waiting for the campaign medals he requested while serving in Burma. His patience was finally rewarded last week when - without any chasing by Mr Donohue, or, seemingly, anyone else on his behalf - a small brown package containing four medals, including the coveted Burma Star, dropped through his letter box in Maidstone, Kent. 'That's the Army for you,' said Mr Donohue, a wartime intelligence officer, who is totally mystified by the delay. 'I haven't asked for them since 1942.'

THERE WILL be a rush of buyers, I'm sure, for this restaurant advertised in a newspaper in Tenerife: 'For sale, large restaurant. Walls included.'


6 April 1848 Gustave Flaubert writes about the death at 31 of his friend Alfred LePoittevin: 'Alfred died on Monday at midnight. I buried him yesterday, and am now back. I watched beside him two nights (the second, all night), I wrapped him in his shroud. I gave him the farewell kiss, and saw him sealed in his coffin. I was there two days - very full days. While I sat beside him I read Creuzer's Religions of Antiquity. The window was open, the night splendid. I could hear a cock crowing, and a night-moth circled around the tapers. I shall never forget all that, or the look on Alfred's face, or, the first night at midnight, the far-off sound of a hunting horn that came to me through the forest. He was laid in the coffin in the entry: the doors had been removed and the morning air poured in, freshened by the rain that had started to fall. He was carried to the cemetry on mens' shoulders. It was almost an hour's walk. From behind, I saw the coffin swaying like a rolling boat.'