21 JUNE 1975, Page 12

Spectator peregrinations

On the day Mrs Gandhi was convicted for corruption her Aunt, Mrs Pandit, was giving the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial lecture at London University. As her subject was her family and its involvement in politics, albeit mostly in the early days, I thought she might allude to her niece's little local difficulties. But, tactfully, young Indira's name wasn't mentioned once and the only indication of her existence was that Nehru used to sing Harrow songs to his nieces when his daughter was at school in Switzerland.

Mrs Pandit, three times imprisoned by the British before she became High Commissioner in London, was speaking to an audience which included Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy, and first Governor-General of India, Lord Gore-Booth, former High Commissioner in Delhi and Lord Inchcape, son of a Viceroy.

As a former Congress Party member for Uttar Pradesh she said auk her generation never had the money to spend on electioneering. Voters used to go to the polls on foot as if it were a pilgrimage refusing lifts and the roadside kitchens put up by the opposition. They did have money for other things — like the gold-monogrammed glasses like the King's which her father had made, or the silver bowl which her brother was made to use when he went on a protest diet of bread and milk. Lord Mountbatten said afterwards that Nehru, as a lawyer, would have applauded the action of "a small court which had come out with flying colours and where the judges stand out and say what they think is right." One or two Indians were less sure. They thought Mrs Gandhi had been caught out on an absurd technicality. I hope these fussy little lawyers don't demolish Mrs Gandhi Nixon-style. I'd quite like to hear the Indira Gandhi memorial lectures. The only good omen I can think of is that Mrs Pandit said that in her day they had no chance of a job in the Cabinet unless they had been in prison.

Travel made easy

John Stonehouse really ought to have consulted me, and not the Queen, before getting on that plane. I found myself that day on a British Airways Jumbo bound for Hong Kong — without a ticket. I was dropping a friend at Heathrow at the start of a three-week visit to Communist China. But five minutes before check-in time he found that he had left his wallet and papers in my house in London. If he could somehow get on the aircraft I would go back and get the money. Back At the airport an hour later I was told that the aircraft had gone. But a brisk walk, and occasional sprint, took me past the ticket collectors, passport stampers, security checks, duty free shop and along the travelator to the only Jumbo I could see. Everyone was sitting down and they were shutting the door but I handed the wallet to its owner. I never heard how he got there. As I went back along the travelator I saw the security men going in the opposite direction — like a row of eggs. I might have gone to Hong Kong if I hadn't left the car on a double yellow line with the engine running and the door open. All you have to do, Mr Stonehouse, is disappear.


The Old Etonian Mafia still operates — if only on the Daily Mirror. When their Australian reporter John Pilger wanted some free publicity for his leftist anti-American book on Vietnam, The Last Day, Paul Callan, editor of the Mirror's diary, hardly raised his head long enough for Pilger to glimpse that only too familiar bow tie. Pilger cunningly retreated to get help from the circulation manager Val Lewthwaite. Lewthwaite approached Callan by welcoming him to the Old Etonian Daily Mirror club and said he remembered him at school. Callan immediately publicised the Pilger book. — to be published on July 4.

Duchess at work

The Savoy Hotel group had the Duchess of Kent working flat out one scorching afternoon last week. First she made a long speech opening the Antiques Fair at Grosvenor House. Only two hours later she was giving out the prizes for the Children's Design Award, a clothing competition to raise money for the National Playing Fields Association. Fortunately, with three children, the Duchess seemed genuinely interested in the clothes. Otherwise it must be outside the social contract.

Forgotten, not gone

Circumstantial evidence leads me to believe that the next editor of the Sunday Telegraph will be Ralph Thackeray, their ageing former Features Editor who was ceremoniously retired four years ago. Since his 'retirement' Thackeray has refused to leave his desk and has acquired the title "Assistant Editor (Planning)." His influence grows daily even in departments which should be none of his business. The strange thing about the Sunday Telegraph is that when it was started fourteen years ago, they took the second in command from each department of the Daily Telegraph and gave him the No. 1 spot as the sharpest mind in the new team. As a result the Sunday Telegraph is run by people who have been past retiring age for a very long time. Rumours about a successor for the present Editor, Brian Roberts, have lived and died many times. There have been bigger surprises on the Sunday Telegraph — like the suggested appointment once of a blind television critic.


In Smithfield Market I see posters for the Great Meat Ball on June 28. Possibly the most extraordinary thing advertised in that part of London since the Save St Paul's Ball.

Bill moves on

Bill Grundy's name will not, after this week, be appearing at the head of this paper's press column since he has been engaged at £105 a week to increase the readership of Punch, the humour magazine, now that their circulation is so high. One of the first stories in his new gossip column he got from Milton Shulman. Lord Bernstein, the Granada man, went to some superior place where the host introduced him to another guest saying, -Do you know the King of Norway?" to be corrected, "Sweden actually. Where could it have been? I first thought of Kenneth Rose but knew he would never have made such a silly mistake, and he would have bound to have been a guest anyway.

Bill Grundy has been told by William Davis (when he was in London recently) to move into society and start mixing with a better type of person. It was wonderful to see the excitement on his simple honest face when I said that I would take him to his first party at the Clermont Club last week. The reception was given by Peter Beard to launch his new book project, Longing for Darkness, containing the personal reminiscences of the cooperation between Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) and her major domo Kamante. It was a lovely summer evening and I wore my brushed white mohair suit by Ted Lapidus with a black polka dot shirt. There was no need for ties but Bill must be told, sometime, that a collar looks better when wearing a stud. It was the usual easy mixing of café society, the arts (Bill and myself) and some models from an agency. I introduced him to many friends including Anthony Haden-Guest who had come specially from Fleet Street and Peter Grosvenor the literary critic — of the Daily Express. Others there were Mrs Howard Cushing whom I haven't seen since she was little Caroline Knott in 1958. Prince and Princess George Galitzine (she was Jean Dawnay, star of Wonderful Things with Frankie Vaughan. Remember? ) Shirley Anne Field and Adrienne Corti came over to talk to me. Lord and Lady Cawdor somehow didn't notice when I waved. Bill was very good getting us cigarettes and drinks and things. James Hughes-Onslow, the poet and quite the young Chatterton burning himself out with Work they tell me, stood alone silently watching and looking a little faint. Bill, who had had a fall earlier, was talking to a lady of nineteen who turned out to be one of the models and not Miss Blixen as he thought, went to rest in the garden and sat staring at the ground. All too soon the evening was over and after an unpleasant scene I was obliged to be short with a waiter who told us to hurry along as members of the club were expected soon. On the whole a happy day and a new exciting experience for Bill who slept almost silently on the way home. A dear friend. Where will he finish up? It is a responsibility to be moulding him.


Richard Ingrams of Private Eye has paid £500 to Lady Hartwell for printing a silly mistake he picked up from a usually reliable source.

Ingrams has also paid Arianna Stassinopoulos, so she tells me, £1,000 as well as £2,000 legal costs to settle her action against them for suggesting she got into Oxford without A levels or 0 levels, whatever they are.

No friend

In a paragraph last week about an anti-Market gathering, I referred to Mr Nirmal Roy as a `friend' of Mr Enoch Powell. Mr Roy, who is convenor of Camden Fabian Society's race relations research unit, has been greatly distressed by this, since he had never previously met Mr Powell and, of course, is very much Opposed to him on both racial and economic questions.

Bird life

Jocelyn Feilding provided a timely Waterhole for the ever-thirsty Peregrine last week — at the preview in his Bond Street gallery of bird paintings by Peter Paillou. Mr Paillou, who lived in the eighteenth century — about a hundred years after the Dodo—painted some very colourful and unlikely looking birds. I was particularly impressed by their names: the Rhinocerus auklet, Slavonian Grebe and Jamaican Mango Hummingbird — things a peregrine doesn't see enough of.