LETTER from THE EDITOR

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The Independent Online
Question: why am I like Piers Morgan, the affable editor of the Mirror - apart, of course, from the boyish good looks and the fact that Mirror Group is a shareholder of The Independent? The answer this morning is that I too am in abject apology mode. Piers, following a savage denunciation of The Sun over its coverage of the Grobbelaar match-fixing charges, then wrote to his rival editor, describing his behaviour as being that of a ``total prat'', a ``complete tosser'' and a ``juvenile delinquent''. The Sun's editor, Stuart Higgins, being a man of honour, took the letter of apology in good part - and promptly leaked it.

I am hesitant about describing myself in quite the colourful terms of Morgan's letter - these things have a habit of getting into the cuttings and returning to haunt you - but an apology is certainly in order to Indian readers, above all. Yesterday, on page three, we published a striking picture of a pensive-looking Mohandas Gandhi, ``image of saintliness''. Except that, on closer inspection, it wasn't Gandhi; it was the actor Ben Kingsley dressed up as Gandhi, a still from the film of the same name.

For what it is worth, the mistake happened because when the picture desk typed ``Gandhi'' into the electronic library Fotoshop, it produced on- screen images from the film as well as original archive material. On screen, no one paused to take a second look. And Kingsley's make-up was good. But are we pleased by our contribution to India's independence celebrations? Not hugely. Sorry 'bout that.

The foreign editor brings in the front page of a Somalian paper, Xorriya. It means ``Independent'' and is adorned with an eagle, rather like ours. We seem to have started something. There is the eagle-adorned Sunday Independent in South Africa. We have a corporate link to that paper through the Irish Independent; but there is also the eagle-adorned Baltic Independent and a Korean paper, formed by independent journalists which has chosen ... yes, an eagle for its masthead. It is nice to feel that we are not alone. On the other hand, I suppose the whole point of eagles is that they don't fly in flocks.

Robin Cook's wife Margaret, whom he has left for his secretary after a 28-year marriage, writes in The Scotsman of ``the overdriven workaholic personality'' which is attracted to politics: ``The perceived necessity to compete ensures that the individual, once on the conveyor belt, has no rest. Ambition and single-mindedness prevent the leavening effect of leisure and `time to stand and stare'. Finer feelings and natural emotions become blunted.''

This, I have to say, is a description of male lunacy which certain members of the Marr household would say is not limited to male politicians. So I am off on holiday again. Readers may recall Colin Hughes's description in this spot last week of our rain-drenched Devon break. All week kind colleagues have been coming up to me with broad grins asking how I enjoyed myself - gentle solicitude for others being widespread in this office. But the truth was that it was at least as wet as described. Local rivers burst their banks; when we went swimming (undaunted) in the sea, the colour and smell of the area's red clay was thick in the water. The tired phrase ``swimming in blood'' came suddenly to life. Anyway, we are now off again: knowing our luck, you can expect typhoons shortly in the Bay of Biscay and an earthquake in south-west France.

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