3 MAY 1975, Page 6

Spectator peregrinations

Norman St John-Stevas, who edited the collected works of Walter Bagehot, has offered to compile the correspondence of Hugh Leggatt, the St James's Street art dealer who is believed to have written more letters to the Times than anyone else. Leggatt, you will remember, went into a near-frenzy of letter-writing about museum charges when St John-Stevas was the Tory Arts Minister. Actually I can't quite take this seriously, St John-Stevas is our best comic after Spike Milligan. He can't even take seriously the rude remarks about him in this column a fortnight ago. As a result, I will never be rude about him again.

"Peregrine, don't print a word of this," he said and-began to talk of many things.

He was at The Spectator to present the E100 Spectator Art Exhibition Prize donated by Hugh Leggatt to Lord John Montagu-DouglasScott, the Duke of Buccleuch's seventeenyear-old son, who won the competition with an essay on Turner. At first I found this highly suspect. I thought that Leggatt, who has a photograph of himself and the Duke at school, just wanted a charter to snoop around their stately home in the borders.

But according to young Scott, this is completely unnecessary because the Duke has opened the house to the public only this week., And judging by the extracts read out by Mr St John-Stevas, it has been won on merit.

What I want to read, however, is the account he hopes to write for the Eton Chronicle, about the day at The Spectator, when he gets back to school.

Not extinct yet

Coming out of the House of Lords after an obscure discussion on extinct peerages I was overtaken on my bicycle by Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone. Wearing bicycle clips, pinstripes, a bowler hat and an enormous grin he was weaving his way through traffic in Parliament Square and I could not keep up with him as he went up Whitehall. Very good on hand signals but a bit shaky. Don't forget, you're only a life-peer now.

Norwich culture

I detected that Lady Thorneycroft was suppressing a slight smile when Ozias, Governor of Bethulia, walked down the aisle of the Temple Church for a performance of Giuditta by Scarlatti — which she had arranged to raise money for the 'Venice in Peril' fund. Bearded, hatted and robed and carrying a vast candelabra was Lord Norwich, known to millions as John Julius Norwich, bespectacled presenter of televised culture. It was his first attempt at the dramatic arts since a bout of opera singing overtook him in Beirut some years ago. Later in the vestry I found Lord Norwich desperately wprking to rediscover the real John Julius. On his right arm a tattooed unicorn — an artistic contribution made years ago by Lady Norwich.

Painted squares

For this week's pseudo-artistic experience I recommend Alan Green's exhibition at the Annely Juda gallery. Judy Marie wrote in the Guardian last Friday (25), "I liked the way they really use the wall behind them. Its evident flatness and verticality becomes a foil for the slightest irregularities of the horizontals and verticals in the pictures." When I went to the preview I did not notice any irregularities in these painted squares but the wall was useful in keeping the guests vertical.

Helping the police

I am glad I am not made to go down to help The Spectator printers in Colchester. My colleague Peter Ackroyd, the literary editor, was staying there one night when a woman was murdered. He has since been visited by police in this office asking him to help them with their inquiries. He looks quite harmless to me.

Ennobling Tom

As it is the beginning of May, I would like to be the first to send birthday greetings to Tom Driberg who reaches three score and ten later this month. He was Labour MP for Barking and has recently been writing the diary in the New Statesman. He has also been dreaming of wallowing in the House of Lords and mulling over the question of his title. Michael Foot, whose three brothers have acquired titles of one kind or another, has been arguing for the ennoblement of Driberg but Wilson won't listen.


Pipe-smoking inspector Michael Watts of the Sunday Express has recently learned to enjoy cigarettes. He likes tearing them up. ,When offered one the other day by fellow-journalist Charles Lyte, Watts seized the offensive weed and broke it in four pieces before dropping it in an ash-tray. "I enjoyed that much more than you will enjoy yours," Watts said to the electric Lyte. "If more people would learn to appreciate cigarettes the way I do, there would be no need for a government health warning.'


Robert Dougall, newsreader, birdwatcher and President of the RSPB, tells me he is very concerned about the survival of the peregrine. "They were in real danger, but now things are much rosier," he told me at a party given by Spode China at the London Zoo. Just in case, Spode are making twenty-five golden eagles and 100 peregrines in fine bone china. The bad news: female peregrines are bigger than males and all peregrines are very secretive.

Press gang

Peter Senn of the Daily Mirror, whose recent Far East travels were used to liven up Paul Callan's turgid gossip page, has been relating some unprintable versions of his exploits in El Vino. I will spare you the sordid details but the gist is that he is shortly expecting a visit at his London flat from a Singapore whore and three .hemaphrodites.

Senn would also like it to be known that when he was at Oxford he was a pupil of Sussex University pop historian Asa Briggs who has now been made Chancellor of Worcester College, Oxford. Rupert Murdoch, Alastair Burnet and Peter Grosvenor, Daily Express British propaganda correspondent, were all taught by Briggs at that time. Isn't it remarkable, says Senn, that all four have gone such a long way in journalism?

Oxford life

Sir Lawrence Pumphrey, our man in Islamabad, is on leave in Northumberland recovering from the embarrassing Bhutto debacle. The nauseatingly idealistic behaviour of a few Oxford students made life difficult for many Oxford graduates — among them Wilson, Heath, Thatcher, Thorpe, Healey, Jenkins, Foot and the University's Chancellor Harold Macmillan. But it was the ambassador to Pakistan, who got a First in Greats at Oxford and whose son is doing finals this term, who had to explain to the uncomprehending Bhutto, who is worth a few thousand Oxford eggheads, why he was not getting his honorary degree. For Pumphrey it has made the closing years of his career almost as undiplomatic as the beginning. In the early 'fifties Pumphrey in a naive excess of youthful idealism, reported the casual remarks of a girl who was working in Conservative Central Office. This gave Harold Wilson some early political capital and started the Bank rate leak scandal. It turned out later that the girl, Christopher Chataway's sister Susan, was only pulling the serious-minded Pumphrey's leg to pass the time on a boring train journey. Is Oxford pulling Pumphrey's leg?

Sartorial note

I am being inundated — if that's the word — with enquiries about my filthy raincoat — which I described recently. It is clearly an antique of some interest. When I was briefly separated from it the other day at Christie's several people started looking at the lining and taking notes. I had gone to a wine auction at their Kensington branch and left the mackintosh on a row of hangers in the next room — where the next sale, old coats, was on display. I grabbed my unusual coat before there were any offers and will continue to wear it on suitable occasions.

Fanny at home

Fanny and Johnny Cradock are old news — much older than they'd like to admit. Fanny's make-up is gaudier than ever but Johnny's monocle is clouding up. Her voice is croakier than ever but his hearing aid is hissing. I went along with several other Grub Street practitioners straining our intellects to see if we could find anything novel to say about her new novel. I asked if it was her first non-cookery book, what was it called, and why was the food at the party supplied by Robert Carrier? I forget what the answers were. A Sunday Mirror reporter told me she would get Fanny to say "Johnny cooked this one up" or "I wrote it in my Christian Dior negligee." Mrs Cradock never said anything of the kind. "Don't worry, I'll twist it somehow," said the Sunday Mirror.

Dear me

On the Eton Ramblers' Cricket fixtures for this summer! see that captains who have to scratch their matches are advised to write to Mr Dear. These letters must read, "Dear Dear, I'm scratching." I'm sorry Mr Dear, you must have heard something like it before.