Pepys doesn't know what he's missing

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The Independent Online
"Dear RUDEE" writes Magy Higgs. "Your wheeze to let the readers do the writing while the `writer' cashes the cheque deserves top marks for something. Choose: Ingenuity ... cheek ... efficiency ... the reader- feel-good factor." Good grief, woman, has it completely escaped your attention that the workers who get paid most are those who delegate? I sit here listening to the merry hum of my fax machine and making crucial decisions about what emerges. I am editor and managing director of this column: I only wish the cheque reflected my importance.

"She was only a sausagemaker's daughter has inspired Mike Bradshaw to: "But she curst every wurst that she burst" and John Hobson to "But she knew her Long Johns from her Franks."

Sebastian Robinson struck a chord with:

Sadly they trudge round the

Royal Academy,

All the good bourgeois, for

Culture athirst,

Yearning for Art to be repre-


Who do they end up with?

Damien Hirst.

I was given a sharp rap over the knuckles by a Hirstophile after being rude last year about the Turner shortlist so I wish it to be known that I try - God knows I try - to keep an open mind. Only the other day, finding myself in St James's with time on my hands, I applied myself to two extremely modern exhibitions. The first - to be found at the Economist Tower - is called "2 seconds 9 months", for, as the artist, Maria Marshall, explains, "An ejaculation of 2 seconds is sufficient to provide enough sperm to fertilise an egg; 9 months is self-explanatory."


The visual bit is OK, if you fancy a metaphor in the shape of a vast wooden-slatted pyramid housing baby pine trees, but what really grabbed my attention was Ms Marshall's diary of her pregnancy - complete with doctor's commentary. Now I'm well-up on boring diaries. When writing the history of The Economist I had to skim 60 years of the fantastically dull journal of one Eliza Bagehot, daughter of the paper's founder and wife of Walter, the third editor. A typical entry read "Got up late as had bad headache. Lady Radice called and told me Mrs Midget was unwell. Zoe read part of Mr Gladstone's speech to me pm."

Then last year, when I wrote a crime novel about a fox-hunting bill, I had to bone up on hunt diaries that made Eliza seem Pepys-like by comparison. I still keep instructions from an Edwardian autobiography: "In it should be noted the hounds he hunts with, the meets he attends, the distance to them, the weather, the directions of the wind, a concise account of the day's sport, and any noteworthy incident in it ... does not the soldier's art consist of order, simplicity and clearness?"

So does Ms Marshall's. And though more selective than the Antipodean who was in the news recently for keeping a record of every single event in his life, from the few pages I could see she appears to omit no detail, however slight, relating to her pregnancy. Where she goes further than Eliza, hunt diarists or the Antipodean is in selling it for pounds 350 plus VAT in a limited edition of 29.

I proceeded to the ICA and found Chapmanworld, an exhibition consisting mainly of pairs of child-like mannequins fused together in interesting places and naked except for their trainers. Upstairs a skeleton mannequin suspended from the ceiling dripped copious amounts of red fluid into a bucket: on the wall was a notice disclaiming responsibility for damage caused to clothing by splashes of blood.

I did not sign up for the workshop, exploring through discussion and practical experiment the Chapman use of distorted focus. OK, OK, so I'm bourgeois.

Improbability of the week: A marathon reading of Ulysses on Sunday at the James Joyce Centre in Dublin was kicked off by Jeffrey Archer. Which leads me neatly into the ICA postcard of the day with its Molly Bloom overtones. Jacky Fleming draws one woman saying to another: "then he said why was I always trying to CHANGE him and I said probably because he's such an obnoxious thoughtless selfish overbearing self-righteous hypocritical arrogant loudmouthed misogynist bastard..."

My fax number is 0181 932 4829 - not 4629.

Miles Kington is back next week.