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MAJOR CAUSE FOR CONCERN; John and Norma aghast at wedding.

DO NOT be fooled by the statement of congratulation from John and Norma Major on the announcement that their son, James, is hell-bent on marrying Emma Noble.

You know, the one-and-a-half-line communique that read: "Both James and Emma are very happy and so are we." That's enthusiasm?

The reality, I am told, is that the former Prime Minister and, even more so, his delightful wife were "shocked and stunned" when they learned in America that their out-of-work son had become engaged.

A friend of the Majors, who has known Master James since he was in nappies, told me this week that John Major was desperately praying his son would not be going through with the wedding, thankfully not due to take place for another year.

Taking me to one side as if I were able to do something, she went on: "James won't get himself out of this situation, he's too stupid. And why should he? He is clearly having the time of his life, learning tricks he never even dreamed about. Let me give you an idea of just how besotted James is. He actually thought that that ghastly dress Emma wore to the BAFTA awards on Monday night was elegant."

If the Majors were a continental family, there would be all sorts of pressures being put on the lad.

He would be told categorically to finish this ridiculous affair and find a "nice" girl to marry. But that he should get a job first.

However, the British, particularly a family such as the Majors, are much more genteel in these delicate matters and are saying nothing. The danger is that this might continue.

The friend, who's spoken more than once to John Major about this whole unsettling business, says the hope is that the first flush of sexual attraction between them will cool down. But there's no guarantee.

James is beyond talking to - his mind and body are otherwise occupied. The pal tells me: "The problem is that James is thick."

I HAVE recently completed negotiations to hire a chateau in South West France for the month of August.

My one concern is that with the World Cup about to begin and the inevitable unpleasant behaviour of certain boorish fans, there might be a tendency by the French to kill every Englishman on sight!

I'm not ready to die yet.

I'M off to Wiltshire to help launch a new cricket team. The privately owned club, which will play near Camilla Parker Bowles' home, begins a series of fixtures this afternoon.

Wine buff and pet food boss Giles Clarke promises me that I need only eat his excellent food and NOT face hostile, macho bowlers.

A HUGE admirer of The Big Issue, the magazine that campaigns for the homeless, I was stunned by an ad which seemed irrelevant to the people it helps.

The Carphone Warehouse has joined forces with The Big Issue to "bring you this very special mobile phone package." What ever next? A switchboard to connect do-gooders to "guests" sleeping in doorways?

Dear James

I ALWAYS treat you and your column with the contempt you deserve.

And what you said about Della and Grant Bovey and their children convinced me again of your gutless character.

You said their children are bewildered and mentally battered.

What right have you to pass judgement on what Della and Grant have done and the effect it may, or may not, have on their kids?

Nora Lees Birmingham

WHAT a nice man you are and what a cheerful face you have. It makes my day when I see your picture in The Mirror.

Your wife is so fortunate to wake up to you every day and see your happy face. Happy days and good times to you.

Joyce Beckley Middlesbrough

NO WAY INTO MY SECRET GARDEN

NEWS that I have transformed my garden into a veritable wonderland ensured that The Mirror switchboard lit up last Saturday morning.

My friend John Peacock, who "mans" the news desk while all else are taking a well-earned day off, faxed me to say that dozens were in touch to learn more. Will I open the estate up to the public as they do at Buckingham Palace each year? Will I be having open days for charity? Will there be souvenirs for sale?

The answer is: No, No, and No again!

I've seen what happened to Earl Spencer when he announced his tacky plans for Althorp "in memory of" Diana. A ton of abuse rightly descended upon him.

And, unlike the Queen, I didn't have a castle burn down which necessitated the urgent raising of funds.

RECENTLY I had a terrific time at the newly-renamed Gielgud Theatre when four of us went to see Alan Ayckbourn's Things We Do For Love.

But the evening could have been a catastrophe. When we went to our seats, two were occupied. "Boring," I thought, "can't they read?"

They insisted they were in the correct place so we checked our tickets. We had been allocated the same. The problem was we should have been at the show two nights earlier!

Happily, there were empty seats nearby.

The IRA bomb that never was

I'M INTRIGUED by the release of The Informer, a new book written by former terrorist and convicted murderer Sean O'Callaghan, who double- crossed the IRA.

A sensational part of the tome is his claim that he was sent to murder Princess Diana and Prince Charles at a charity pop concert at London's Dominion Theatre in July 1983.

I was at this event, sitting opposite the royal couple as we listened to Duran Duran and Dire Straits.

I could never understand why they left the royal box before Simon Le Bon's group had finished their performance before the interval.

I assumed they'd had enough. But it was hard to explain because their early departure seemed rude.

I imagine their security, nervous enough of the evening (I'd never seen the protection squad more twitchy), ordered Charles and Diana out of the vicinity while they made a further check.

O'Callaghan claims he was ordered to place 25lb of Frangex in a nearby loo, which would have killed everybody within a 60ft radius.

I remember quizzing one of the royals' personal protection officers at the theatre about what was going on as the building was cleared before the concert began.

He said: "We've had a call saying there's a bomb here. We know there isn't because we've searched the place from top to bottom and it's clean.

"But when you get a call you have to go through the whole boring process all over again just in case."

The cops were right. O'Callaghan never put the bomb in place but I tremble at what might have been for them - and, indeed, me.

ART lovers are in for a treat if, like me, they go along to the Queen's Gallery which, as I'm sure you know, lies alongside Buckingham Palace.

A new exhibition has begun, showing work from the Royal Collection. It includes paintings by Holbein, Van Dyck, Reynolds, Zoffany and Ramsay.

What I can't guarantee is that you will get Christopher Loyd, surveyor of the Queen's pictures, to personally show you round, as I did. This is akin to God giving you a guided tour of heaven.

PS:I'm thrilled that the Carlton Club has decided to keep women at bay. It's so wonderfully politically incorrect.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Whitaker, James
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 23, 1998
Words:1234
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