Diary – Monday 29 May 1995


A poignant tale concerning the late Lord Wilson has come my way. It shows that there comes a fruitful time in every politician’s life when rivalries may be overcome and political agendas eschewed. Seven years ago, when Lord Wilson’s illness was setting in, his great enemy of old, the former Tory prime minister and current Father of the House Sir Edward Heath, invited him to dinner. “He was coming to Salisbury to visit his second son, who was teaching at Salisbury Cathedral Choir School, which is not far from my house,” explains Sir Edward. “As a conciliatory gesture, I invited him and a few other friends of his to dinner. Mary, his wife, explained when they arrived that he was not well, but none the less I think he really enjoyed himself. He wasn’t talking much politics, none of us were. I was greatly saddened then by his illness and I am very sad that he has gone.”

Roll on old age, if it brings such magnanimity with it.

I have news for all those tabloids referring to Jemima Goldsmith’s impending nuptials as “the wedding of the year”. They are wrong. My impending nuptials (on 15 July) will be, instead. (Well I would think so, wouldn’t I?) But there is a further error: it concerns wedding present etiquette. “Surprisingly, guests have not been invited to give presents to the couple,” spouted the Mail last week. Tut, tut. One never actually asks for presents, one merely prays (facing Mecca if you are Jemima) that your guests are generous enough to give them to you.

The rules, as delineated by Debrett, are as follows: you may, if you wish, compile a list at an up-market store or two, but it is up to the guests to inquire where it is and what the bride or groom particularly want from it. If she has no list, she may well follow the example of the Tory MP’s daughter Kate Viggers, who got married in Lisbon over the weekend. Being materially well-off, Ms Viggers couldn’t thing of anything specific that she wanted, so friends who inquired what to give her were told: “Something beautiful or old.” (Memo to all my guests: I am not nearly so fussy.)

Tonight sees an unusual debut at London’s Wigmore Hall, normally a venue for conventionally classical perfomances. A concert is being staged by the London Metropolitan Ensemble, whose number includes the composer- players Michael Kamen, Barrington Pheloung, and Dave Heath. These names may mean little or nothing to most, until it is pointed out that Kamen wrote the music for the Lethal Weapon movies, as well as Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and recently Circle of Friends; Pheloung wrote the music for Truly Madly Deeply and Channel 4’s The Politican’s Wife, while Heath writes concertos for James Galway and Nigel Kennedy.

One of Kamen’s pieces is called Cut Sleeves, based on a true story about a Chinese emperor who fell in love with a page boy, who one day fell asleep on his arm. Mid-siesta, the emperor was called to a court meeting, and rather than wake the page boy, he cut off the sleeve of his kimono. Ever since, according to Kamen, the sign of the cut sleeve has been the symbol for homosexuality in China. How many of you can honestly say you knew that?

To the Halcyon Hotel, Holland Park, for the launch of Bodypure – a guide on how to purge one’s body of fat, poisons, etcetera by the ex-model Marie Helvin. If one follows its instructions religiously, one is supposed to end up looking as svelte as Marie Helvin – but alas, that would mean giving up everything enjoyable. Still, I was relieved to see Ms Helvin with one champagne glass (drained) in her hand, so she can’t be taking it all too seriously.

In one corner I stumbled across Julia Carling (Will’s wife) in conversation with Michelle Lineker (Gary’s wife). The former, whom I found, to use my mother’s phrase, “quite charming”, told me that she won’t be joining her husband for the Rugby World Cup in South Africa until Friday this week, one week after most of the other wives have gone out. Mrs Carling was carefully counting her holiday allowance. “You never get to see your other half,” she explained, “so we’d rather have a holiday at the end of the summer when we can spend quality time together.” At least she always has Marie Helvin’s book to read during the lonely evenings this week: “I can see its uses,” she pronounced sagely, “There will, after all, come a time when you want to prevent everything from sagging.”

Tony Kaye, the adman, who last week made the headlines for being the New Tate’s first exhibitor (by dumping a huge photograph outside it in the night) has finally made some money from his campaign of art terrorism. A whole pounds 1. Several days ago he organised five ambulances to turn up outside the opening of Damien Hirst’s exhibition “Medical Cabinet” in the White Cube gallery, St James’s, and videoed their arrival. He titled the work Empty Vessels and offered it for sale at pounds 1 a video. The writer Peregrine Hodson actually bought one – or rather a receipt for one. “I thought Kaye’s work of movement provided a good contrast, since Hirst’s exhibition was incredibly static,” explains Hodson. But he is not entirely satisfied with his purchase. “You might tell Mr Kaye that it is now several days later and I have not actually received the video.” Mr Kaye remains undeterred. “Next time, I will ask for pounds 2m-pounds 3m per item.”