The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Did you spot Hague in an Afro wig? Well I did

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The Independent Online
Sometimes, I have fretted that my younger colleagues on this newspaper are too "left-leaning" for their own good. But then I have told myself that it is just a phase, like acne (dread word!), through which youngsters must pass, and that all will be well in the end.

Happily, last week's newspapers confirmed my fondest hopes: an entire issue devoted to the untimely death of a 35th-generation aristocrat - and a privately educated princess to boot! Hats off to common sense - and let's hear no more from any commoner who foolishly may have died that week!

But experienced news-hands have learnt to keep a sharp eye on the small print at these times of national crisis. Those in senior positions who would wish to keep their dark secrets to themselves choose to issue their dastardly deeds when the news pages are frying bigger fish. This way, the information oft passes unobserved. On the wedding day of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, for instance, I spotted three fascinating news stories low down on pages 25-31 of my Daily Telegraph, stories I have never seen reprinted elsewhere, and which have bypassed the memories of what one might call ordinary decent people (dread grouping!).

The first, simply titled "Mr E Heath", revealed, in no more than 20 words, that Mr Edward Heath had called a press conference to admit to dating veteran chanteuse Miss Kathy Kirby for upwards of the past 15 years. "To my great regret, I can confirm that we have performed together, though never in public," he announced.

The second news story, buried amid details of the wedding presents from foreign dignitaries to the happy couple, concerned up-and-coming young minister Mr David Mellor. Under the small heading "Minister Admits Casual Work" came the news that junior minister for health Mr David Mellor had admitted undertaking casual work as Mickey Rourke's body-double on the set of the recent movie Nine and a Half Weeks. But he denied that Ms Kim Basinger's recent baby, born the previous week with protuberant teeth, a bullish manner and thick-lensed spectacles, could possibly have been his own.

The last story on that bright August day 11 years ago appeared in small print on page 29. It was a prescient little piece, probably leaked by the mandarins in MI5. It was headed, "Thatcher to Be Shooed Out, Major to Take Over, Kinnock to Resign, Smith to Die Suddenly and Blair to Win Landslide 97 Election". But no one noticed it. Strange, how eerily resonant those words appear today.

By now you will be asking yourselves what nuggets of information your esteemed columnist managed to glean from the inner pages of last Monday's newspapers. My discoveries are, you will agree, most illuminating. Buried deep on page 41 of The Times, just beneath a brief story headlined, "Woman Answering Description of Princess Margaret Seen Tampering With Car", was a notable piece headed, "Hague Fitted for Afro-Wig". It revealed that the new Conservative leader has been paying repeated visits to top Mayfair stylists Michaeljohn in order to be expertly fitted for a frizzy hairpiece, in the hope of capturing the valuable ethnic vote. The wig, it said, is to be premiered at the forthcoming Conservative Party Conference, on the very same day that the new party slogan, "Building A Solid Future for a Natty Dread Britain" will be unveiled. Conservative advisers believe that the events of the past fortnight will have obscured most people's memory of what Hague's pate looked like, and they are confident that the transition will prove smooth.

Other hidden stories were every bit as revealing: on page 32 of the Daily Telegraph, I spotted a brief announcement of the engagement of my old friend Lord St John of Fawsley to Miss Gillian Taylforth, a distinguished actress. The two met while taking the title roles in the Felixstowe Hippodrome production of Beauty and the Beast, though the item was too short to go into the ins and outs of exactly who took which part.

Likewise, two inches from the bottom of page 27 of the Financial Times, I spotted a throwaway item headed, "Eastbourne Slips Into Ocean: Two Survivors". It seems that the East Sussex town was overwhelmed by a freak wave last Monday, but no one noticed it until the Wednesday, so upset were they by the funeral. But it ended happily: the two survivors were fans of the Princess, and were only too delighted to have been saved from death so that they too could pay their fond respects in a floral tribute.

All well and good, but I remain puzzled by an item of late news on page 27 of the Evening Standard on Monday. Did you notice it? "Blair Announces End of NHS" it said. It sounds insignificant enough, but who knows?