Wine tasters push on as rowers get Bumped for exams;Newsreel; The week in view

27th February 1998 at 00:00
In the week of the lifelong learning Green Paper ( which should have been white) it is appropriate that much news was devoted to tales of academe, some suitably arcane.

Cambridge dons have put their oar in to prevent 150 students from taking part in the Bumps, the biannual rowing event, as 17 crews were cut from the competition in response to pressure from high-level academics more concerned with league tables than the Bumps chart. A disgruntled rower from Trinity pointedly revealed that his college won the cup and came top in exams. Moreover, rowing helped produce better-organised students who were more employable as it was "a very people-orientated sport".

Cambridge is also noted for its oenological tradition, reveals John Casey, an old boy of King's, on the eve of the Oxford v Cambridge wine-tasting competition. Some of the famously left-wing colleges have excellent cellars, he said. "King's may have a social conscience, but it has an oenological one as well."

To understand the tradition of eating and drinking at Cambridge you have to realise that that part of the university remains pre-modern, explained Dr Casey. Fellows receive part of their income in kind because colleges are "eleemosynary societies" which support their members much in the way monasteries and almshouses do.

These well-wined and dined chaps are still reconsidering whether to award that notable gourmand, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, an honorary law degree following the controversial decision to grant him the freedom of the City of London.

Meanwhile Oxford was celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Union by debating a motion "that ambition is the last refuge of the failure". "One of those Oscar Wilde sayings that slip away from you the moment you think you've got it," according to Boris Johnson,the Telegraph columnist, one of the participants.

The late literary figure is still capable of causing confusion: a photograph purporting to show Wilde in his schooldays was withdrawn from auction after doubts were cast on its authenticity.

Better news for Baby Spice and Alan Shearer, the Newcastle striker. They've been voted girls' and boys' favourite, respectively, for their choice as teacher in a Disney Channel survey. One per cent chose Jeremy Paxman.

Richard Marlin, five, also has no competition as he is the only pupil at Potter Heigham school in Norfolk which has been deserted since December, when all 17 pupils were taken away by parents after a damning inspectors' report.

Neighbours of three-year-old Tom Coward could wish the same solitary fate for the youngster who has such a deafening voice that he has driven them and his parents to distraction. Constant shouting has caused the nodules in his throat to develop prematurely. His complaint is usually associated with opera singers, football managers or other adults who use their voices at full volume I teachers, perhaps?

Parents should be heartened by news that the Office of Fair Trading is to investigate all football premiership teams after complaints that clubs are fixing prices of replica kits. Manchester United provoked parental apoplexy in 1995 when it changed its strip six times in three seasons, and for issuing a fourth strip for the Champions' League last year - a snip at pound;63 per offspring.

At least cricket fans don't yet suffer from the same scale of exploitation, especially girls: fine chance. The last bastion of male sporting exclusivity breathed again when the old buffers voted against women joining the MCC.

And to the technology story of the week: a computer to make Jeffrey Archer look to his laurels. Brutus 1 has written a novel, Betrayal. His human minder - Dr Selmer Bringsjord at the Rensselaer Institute in New York - says computers will never produce good fiction, but formula novels are possible. His silicon novelist took seven years to produce this first work. No contest for Lord Archer, let alone Barbara Cartland.

Diane Spencer

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