But did Isambard Brunel inhale?

16th October 1998 at 01:00
As chips are rationed, or even banned, from school dinners by our caring Government, this column is calling a moratorium on yo-yos and Furbies, despite a sudden media addiction to them.

An addiction too to revelations: how much more can we take of other people's private lives? Woodrow Wyatt is causing anguish andor amusement from the grave. Not only did the late chairman of the Tote disclose dinner party tittle-tattle with the Queen Mum in his diaries, he also alleged that Harold Macmillan was forced to leave Eton because of "a gay scandal" and, even worse, he revealed that he pulled strings to get his daughter into Oxford. Pity poor Petronella.

Whatever next? Isambard Kingdom Brunel will never be the same. Our great Victorian engineer has been allowed to keep his stove-pipe hat, but his trademark cigar has been airbrushed away: a victim of political correctness. The owners of one of Brunel's creations, ss Great Britain, the first ocean-going propeller-driven iron ship, have removed the offending object from a 141-year-old photograph in a brochure advertising the Bristol-based floating museum.

Who's next? Will Winston Churchill and Groucho Marx suffer the same fate?

Open University summer schools, renowned for sex, drinks and parties, face the axe. Students will have to be content with televisions, telephones and the Internet instead of a week emulating Rita.

It's a wonder grown-ups can take time off to study. The Henley Centre, a forecasting consultancy that has just produced a report on the future of employment, reckons that the weekend is being abolished. The British are more likely to work on Saturdays and Sundays than fellow Europeans. However, a high-flying investment analyst on half-a-million a year with two school-aged kids reckons: "If you concertina your interface with your children, it might actually be better for your relationship."

How refreshing to learn of a Whitehall mandarin who has negotiated an early daily departure from the Cabinet Office to take turns with his wife to collect their daughter from nursery school. But he works for a couple of hours after she's gone to sleep; no doubt after reading her a bedtime story.

Old favourites like The Wind in the Willows and The Tale of Peter Rabbit are up for auction next month. Sotheby's thinks it will be the greatest sale of children's books ever. Salutary to learn, in the light of "concertina-ing your interface" that Kenneth Grahame found time to write his tale of the riverbank when he was secretary to the Bank of England. Time for leisure in those days.

American drama teachers are warning that a favourite pastime - putting on a show - is being threatened by draconian new weapons bans, including fakes, in schools. No dagger, no Hamlet; no guns, no Guys and Dolls, no Oklahoma, no West Side Story. (No Furbies, no yo-yos.)

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