7 Days

Girl talk Sisterly solidarity was thin on the ground as Professor Lola Young, chair of the £30,000 all-female Orange fiction prize, criticised British women writers for obsessing over their careers, boyfriends, children and parties. Publishers were berated for encouraging the "Bridget Jones" wannabes by offering big advances to young women who were photogenic but also "smug", "parochial" and "narrow-minded".

Death of a star Britain's first matinee idol, Sir Dirk Bogarde, died from a heart attack at the age of 78. An advocate of voluntary euthanasia, he detested public grieving and, true to his principles, banned any memorial service at his passing. His nephew said: "He just wanted to disappear in the mist of the meadow."

Party-pooper As millennium hysteria grows, the rock star Eric Clapton spoke out for reformed alcoholics everywhere, for whom 31 December 1999 will be the worst night of the year. While the rest of us intend to imbibe as if there were no tomorrow, he plans an exclusive "dry" party for ex-addicts. Unfortunately, he could not divulge the location for fear of thousands of fans descending.

Foreign Office death Robin Cook was said to be devastated at the sudden loss of his right-hand man, Derek Fatchett. The Leeds Central MP, who was in good health, fit and still playing cricket, suffered a heart attack at the age of 53, leaving a colleague to comment that it was a terrible indictment of the gruelling lifestyle of a minister.

A buyers' market The National Farmers' Union has been forced into printing calendars of the growing seasons for shoppers so out of touch with nature that they demand strawberries in the middle of winter. Three-quarters of all shoppers say they want to buy British rather than foreign produce, but are clueless about what fruit and veg are available to them and when.

This article first appeared in the 17 May 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The NS Essay - A culture of pretence