Diary – Monday 17 April 1995


Easter Sunday, for a few million in the populace at least, signalled one thing only: the final episode of Joanna Trollope’s The Choir. Now I’ll bet you all thought, like myself, that the proceeds from the Decca CD featuring the angelic choirboy Anthony Way would be monopolised by Decca and the Beeb. (The profits must be pretty hefty given that the disc is in the Top Ten already and has sold 80,000 only two weeks after being released.) But the good news is that a portion of the royalties will be going to Gloucester Cathedral Endowment fund – which partly subsidises the cathedral choir used in the filming. There, however, the story of life mirroring art ends. I asked Gloucester’s music director David Briggs (whose hands play the organ in the series) if, as in the fictional version, the cathedral charges a £300 recording facility fee. His answer, sadly: “No – it was all part of a filming deal with the BBC.”

For some reason, the atmosphere is unusually excitable at Cowley Street, the national headquarters of the Liberal Democrats. No one expressed this better last week than one Alan Leman, 36, newly promoted from head of communications at London Research Centre to party director of strategy and planning. So eager was he to get about his business that he threw a fire-door open vigorously enough for it to fall off its hinges. “Somebody had to come in and fix it,” he moaned rather soberly on the telephone, adding quickly: “People here made comments about muscle-power,” pause “but I’m not into fitness or anything.”

It would be vainglorious if he were to do this himself, so, in the spirit of camaraderie, I’m going to offer my colleague John Walsh a big public pat on the back: somehow he has cajoled the BBC into giving him a job. In addition to his arduous duties as literary editor and columnist here, in August he will present the first weekly discussion programme based on modern literature on Radio 4 since Bookshelf closed down three years ago.

“It will be be on Sundays at 11.45am, between Medium Wave and Desert Island Discs,” says Walsh, with a toss of the head, adding: “I feel I am a natural to successor to Frank Delaney (the former presenter of Bookshelf). “We’re both Irish, we look very similar – and, as we discovered one night in the Palm Court of the Ritz when we pulled out our driving certificates, our birthdays are on the same day. But of course,” adds Walsh with sheep- eyes, “he’s 11 years older than me.”

Oh to have been Easter-egg shopping in Sainsbury’s, Chelsea Wharf, London, last Tuesday evening: the tills broke down, leaving customers to evaluate off the tops of their heads the value of their purchases. Just think of all the VAT one would have been able to evade. Still, it appears they were an honest lot. “We’ve done a tally,” says a Sainsbury’s spokesman, “and though we expected people to err on the side of caution their calculations proved remarkably accurate.”

Speaking of calculations, the most boring fact about Mick Jagger – that, in his youth he attended the London School of Economics – is being focused on heavily in the US. Television programmes over there are paying tribute to what they see as a display of his mathematical genius. During the Rolling Stones’ recent Japanese tour he insisted on being paid in yen, which, given its recent rise of 30 per cent against the dollar, means he made an extra $2m. “You see, he’s got such good business acumen” sighs his PR, Bernard Dogherty, “unlike some other pop stars I could mention.”

Staff at Thomas Goode, London’s most expensive china store (Viscount and Viscountess Linley had their wedding list there), need to bone up on their spelling, methinks. A press release signalling the launch of the new shop magazine says: “The Thomas Goode magazine will be published twice a year and is of course complimentary.” A waggish colleague with nothing better to do telephoned the store to reprimand them: “I see that the magazine will be full of compliments,” he quipped to a spokeswoman. “No, it will be free,” she riposted. “Ah,” said my colleague, thinking that she would surely get the joke the next time, “but will it be free and with your compliments?” It was all too much for the woman: “No, just free.”

I knew I could not have been the only one who giggled solidly during last week’s BBC2 Modern Times programme focusing on the society PR Liz Brewer (she manages would-be celebrities such as Ivana Trump and Mona Bauwens, who, according to the programme, take themselves ridiculously seriously). But it was comforting to know that the BBC producers and directors shared my views. Why else would they have had a scene with Ms Brewer saying of Ms Trump’s erstwhile loud, vulgar attire: “She needed guidance”. Pan camera to Ms Brewer’s boudoir, where she sits half-naked on a vast four- poster bed, garbed in an off-one-shoulder leopard-skin toga. Her everyday dressing gown, presumably.

It had to happen: in a couple of isolated cases, BT itself forgot about National PhOneday: A Dutch woman in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, received a phone bill last week with the old code (0423) cited, as did John Bartle of Dean, Gloucestershire, (old code 0594). “It’s absolutely unbelievable,” says Bartle, “when they’ve spent a fortune (£16m) ramming their message down everyone else’s throats, but they don’t even use the new codes themselves.” BT (who were not answering yesterday) could have lost a customer, since he adds: “I’m speechless.”

Following in his father’s thespian footsteps is Malachi Bogdanov, 25, son of the well-known director Michael. From 25 to 29 April he will be flexing his dramatic muscles at the Komedia Theatre, Brighton, in Sawn- off Shakespeare, a provocative production of three plays, heftily abbreviated. His dad, meanwhile, co-founder of the now defunct English Shakespeare Company and Bristol Old Vic, has moved on to Goethe. “He’s working on a six-hour production of Faust,” says Malachi, who has every hope his father will make his opening night: “After all,” says junior, “he missed the first night of Hair (last year’s West End revival) to come and see me in a show, so he must be pretty dedicated.”