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Sir Ron Dearing, happily embroiled putting the nation's universities to rights, appears to be accepting of his honorary role as Mr Fixit. So far, however, he has confined his attentions to education.

But all this may be about to change. He is about to spend Christmas in one of his favourite places, the beautiful city of Lincoln where the cathedral is dear to him. The Lincoln Imp is busy here: the clergy have been embroiled for years in a hideously convoluted disagreement which began with the loss of Pounds 56,000 in a fundraising project which took the Magna Carta on a tour of the Antipodes in 1988 and ended with the Bishop refusing to preach there at Christmas. An appeal by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the warring protagonists to leave their posts was refused and recently one of them, Dr Brandon Jackson, suggested the cathedral be closed down for six months and exorcised.

Asked at a recent Christmas party if he was planning to bring his legendary powers of conciliation to the Lincoln mess, Sir Ron smiled a beatific smile and said enigmatically: "I should jolly well hope so." Was that a trick of the light around his white hair?

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