Diary – May 24, 1994 – 2


Nine years after he banned a translation of his autobiography, Neb (translated as ‘Noone’) into English, the Welsh clergyman poet, R S Thomas has relented. The 200-page work should be ready for publication here by the end of the summer.
Precisely why the 85-year-old cleric changed his mind is not entirely clear. In 1985 he insisted that the book be reserved for a Welsh readership. However, last summer, Jason Walford

Davies, a 23-year-old lecturer in Welsh at Bangor University, wrote suggesting that the work deserved a wider audience and, to his surprise, Thomas concurred.

‘I think it’s perfectly understandable,’ says Walford Davies, who has taken on the role of translator, ‘since he has actually kept his promise. There has been plenty of time for the book to settle in the Welsh imagination.’

However, Walford Davies did admit he too had heard a rumour which came my way, suggesting that the poet’s decision stemmed from a complaint made to Thomas by a ‘lady friend’. She insisted he translate it, the story goes, since she was unable to speak Welsh.

Staff at the Imperial War Museum have been thrown off balance recently by dozens of phone calls from people asking: ‘What does D-Day mean?’ After several weeks of head-scratching as to what the ‘D’ in D-Day stands for – and a variety of theories ranging from Doomsday to Date-Day – a curt note has been circulated from on high explaining that D-Day means nothing at all. ‘It’s just military code for the day when the Normandy landings were to happen – which depended on the weather,’ explains a WWII boffin. ‘The ‘D’ simply stands for ‘the Day’ – it’s rather like

‘H-Hour’.’ Now we know.

Advocating the perfect example of the thinking woman’s crumpet is Andrew Solomon, 30, a commuter between homes in New York and London, speechwriter for Bill Clinton and author of a newly published novel, A Stone Boat. Celebrating its launch in a candle-lit Kensington town house on Monday night, amid such wide-ranging acquaintances as the Prime Minister’s brother, Terry Major-Ball, Dudley Fishburn MP, Nicola Shulman (alias the Countess of Mulgrave) and

American feminist author, Naomi Wolf, Solomon was charmingly self-effacing about his talents. ‘At Yale, I acheived notoriety in my first term entirely by default,’ he explained. ‘Naomi (Wolf) was in the year above me and was already famous. She approached me in front of thousands of people in the lunch queue. ‘I want you,’ she said at the top of her voice, then dropping it, ‘to contribute to the Yale Quarterly’. Only the first part, however, was overheard, leaving me to become Yale’s most undeserving sex symbol.’

I greatly enjoyed chatting to Terry Major-Ball at Andrew’s book launch. Sadness, however, hovered on his brow as he rejected tray after tray of proffered canapes. He is, he confided, being forced by his doctor to diet – not something he enjoys.

‘I will have a sausage,’ he intoned, refusing the chicken satay, ‘they are my absolute weakness. At the unveiling of my brother’s portrait two weeks ago, I ate so many that I was unable to eat dinner properly with John and Norma afterwards at Downing Street.’

The conversation turned to Mr Major-Ball’s forthcoming memoirs Major Major, due out in August. ‘I don’t take them enormously seriously,’ he informed me . . . and indeed he appeared to have great difficulty recalling the publisher’s name.

‘I know it’s an animal,’ he frowned. ‘Penguin, Black Swan, Bantam?’ were suggested until, finally, at the point of despair, he announced triumphantly ‘Duckworth’.

Meanwhile, on Mr Major-Ball’s doorstep in Wallington, Surrey, I learn that the Monster Raving Loony Party’s London South and Surrey East Euro-candidate, Danny Bamford (who changed his name and that of his wife,

Lorraine, to John and Norma Major by deed poll two years ago), are wondering what to do should Margaret Beckett become Labour leader and then Prime Minister. ‘I suppose there is nothing for it,’ explains Major (Bamford) who has also changed his address to 10 Downing Street. ‘All my friends will have to call me Margaret and my wife will become Lionel.’

(Photograph omitted)