Summer pageant of saints and sinners

28th August 1998 at 01:00
THE end of exams, the summer holidays; the tenth anniversary of GCSEs and the first anniversary of the death of Diana.

The Princess's saintly image was questioned by a Wallsend Sunday school teacher who told her class that the princess had gone to hell because she had once been involved with a married man.

The teacher was removed from her post by the elders of the Baptist church. "Quite a few of the children come from families where parents are divorced, so they were concerned for their mums and dads," one of them said.

Traditional family values got a boost from a MORI poll which showed that 85 per cent of adults believed that at least one parent should stay at home and care for children under five.

The Family Education Trust was delighted, but accused the Government of hostility to the family. "We want tax reliefs to help women stay at home and keep the family together, not destroy it," said deputy director, John Campion. He added that working mothers such as Cherie Booth QC, the Prime Minister's wife, were bad role models as "they can't understand the life of the ordinary man and woman in the street".

With so many ordinary people in the world, said author Alain de Botton, it is natural that we should look for easy ways to find out who is important and who can be ignored. He said: "Few hierarchies are as influential as the hierarchy of education. It is no coincidence that grown people still wake in terror in the early hours from nightmares in which they have to resit their A-levels ... but realise as they start to answer the first paper that they have forgotten to read even a page of Balzac's Le P re Goriot or to put on any of their clothes. "

A nightmare too for Oxford University's dons and students as they try to find the right books in the wake of a year-long closure of Duke Humfrey's reading room in the Bodleian Library. The silence of this 15th century establishment has been broken only by the sound of the death-watch beetle eating through the roof for the past 12 months.

Perhaps the scholars will be tempted by the latest gizmo from Japan: a lollipop holder that plays tunes while you lick which only you can hear. Called the Silent Shout, it is are brought to you by Bandai, the makers of the Tamagotchi electronic pet.

Whatever scientists think of next Melvyn Bragg wants it to be included in a soap opera. The newly-ennobled broadcaster says a laboratory-sink drama could do for science what The Archers did for farming, or LA Law for law studies. A continuing drama of power and sex ... just what Tomorrow's World is missing.

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