Diary – May 24, 1994


No sooner did Gussie Fink- Nottle-types rejoice at the founding of Britain’s first P G Wodehouse Literary Society at the end of last year, than a dreadful spanner appeared in the works.
The trustees of the Wodehouse estate, administered by the London literary agents A P Watt, have written to the society’s secretary asking that it does not ‘publicly use the name ‘Wodehouse’ without formal and specific approval’.

Now this, as the society puts it in true Wodehouse fashion, ‘is a bit tricky’. Attempts have been made to include the author’s name in a manner that does not require ‘formal and specific approval’ but they aren’t really getting anywhere.

Perhaps I can help. Having rung one Linda Shaughnessy at AP Watt, I discover that the Wodehouse estate does not wish to hinder the society’s welfare or prevent it using the great writer’s name. ‘It is simply,’ she explains, ‘that the estate must be consulted before anyone uses the name.’

‘Ah ha. . .it’s a matter of true plus-fours etiquette,’ I cry. ‘Precisely,’ concurs the demure Miss Shaughnessy.

ENGLISHMEN beware – in Ghana the latest fad among the ladies is marriage – to a Briton. Over the weekend I heard of not one, but two proposals winging their way from deepest Africa. The first, sadly, was so forward as to be quite unprintable.

The second, however, was sent to Vivian Anthony, 56, author and Secretary of the Headmasters’ Conference, who celebrates his silver wedding anniversary this year. An 18-year-old schoolgirl wrote to him begging for his hand. She had been taken, no doubt, by his Who’s Who entry which states that he wrote ‘Monopoly’, thereby leading her to believe she would spend many an evening happily passing Go and collecting pounds 200.

In retrospect I feel she may see Anthony’s previous marital obligations as a blessing: ‘Monopoly’ is not a board game but a book on economics.

UNLIKE others, I do not feel Nicol Williamson should be let off too lightly for his undramatic walk off stage after only five minutes of A Night on the Town with John Barrymore. For Williamson is not the main sufferer of his actions. A new watchword: ‘Theatre of Death’ is buzzing round Thespian circles, with reference to the sorry fate of The Criterion theatre since its relaunch in October 1992.

Not only has each Criterion production lasted an embarrassingly short time, but this year’s big show, Maxwell the Musical was cancelled before it even got on stage.

‘All in all, the theatre has probably been closed longer than it has been open,’ comments Peter Hepple, consultant editor of The Stage newspaper. Mr Williamson’s performance (or lack of it) is the final straw.

PICTURED is Britain’s first mobile phone box (the payphone you can see is about to be ripped out). The Edwardian booth stands in the restaurant lobby of London’s new Capital Club – a smart new yuppy club due to open in September in the premises of the old Gresham club in the City. Though the club management actively encourages use of mobile phones in the business rooms (‘we want deals to be made on our premises’), the booth’s location near the dining area may suggest to more sensitive suits that it would be polite to make and receive their calls in private. ‘For some reason the roof opens when you are in the booth,’ explains manager Michael Longshaw, adding helpfully, ‘it must be something to do with hot air.’

GREATLY missing the late Labour leader John Smith is the new editorial team of Red Pepper, the independent left-wing magazine replacing The Socialist and backed by luminaries such as Harold Pinter, Ruth Rendell and Jeremy Seabrook. Vocalising Smith’s loss at the publication’s launch last week was editor Hilary Wainwright: ‘We might well have got him to listen and even to contribute,’ she explained, getting firmly into her stride, ‘but Tony Blair is another matter.

‘He is . . .(deep breath) compliant, retrospective and (a pause to prepare me for the ultimate masculine crime) worried about how he appears.’

(Photograph omitted)