"I'm sorry to ring so late," said a woman's voice at the other end of the phone, "but I've applied for this job with a think-tank, and they've asked for a top academic reference, and you're the only person I could think of who knew my work well, and so I wondered if you could write and say that
The previous editor of the New Statesman, Ian Hargreaves, for a brief period called me "Mr Montserrat".
I've made a cheering discovery at a moment in my life when I could do with one.
He may not have a people's poet but he has a people's general. Staff and officers at the Ministry of Defence are fuming that General Sir Charles Guthrie, chief of the defence staff, has fallen under the spell of Commander-in-Chief Tony Blair.
In the Macedonian refugee camps, the Kosovars are still reeling. They had never seen anything like it - a VIP dressed in an open-neck shirt.
It's four weeks since I stopped checking my e-mails and I'm feeling better already. I'm even thinking of taking out a small advertisement in the Independent so my real friends will know that there is now no point sending me electronic mail because I won't be reading it.
Tony Blair was so worried that Nick Jones's revelatory Sultans of Spin might upset him that he dispatched a minion to Politico's bookshop to buy a copy as soon as stocks arrived.
I went to see England against Sri Lanka, the first match in the cricket World Cup. This isn't going to be an authoritative account of the match because I make a strict rule of not going to a cricket match more than once in a decade.
It is more than a decade since I was last in Dover. The miners and P&O ferry workers had been on strike in quick succession. Dover had a radical edge, enriched by a wave of migrants over time.
Once the preserve of the toff, Fayed's emporium is now a Mecca for vulgarians
So there I was at Cannes and there he was and I could tell just by looking at him that he had done something very bad indeed. Yes, I was in the same room as Tom Parker Bowles the night before the tabloids revealed the shocking truth.
Right-wing conspiracy or right-on broker of the special relationship?
The justification for Nato's attack on Serbia, now the outright terror bombing of civilians, was the Serbs' rejection of the "peace accords" drafted at Rambouillet in France in February.
Could I ask a small favour? Even if you only intended to check out the general subject of this column before getting back to something more important, like shredding cabbage, would you be so good as to keep your eyes on the words in front of you and not let them wander aimlessly down the page?
Nelson Mandela is finally saying goodbye to the world of politics. In a ticker-tape parade through Johannesburg, he accepted the plaudits of his people and refused any future role in public life.
I won't be taking up BSkyB's offer of a "free digital dish and decoder box". If ever I get short of something to watch on TV, there's always the TV version of Peter Hall's production of The Oresteia which I taped in 1983 - unless the tape has decayed or been eaten by rats.
Why were Margaret McDonagh, the Labour Party general secretary, Ken Jackson, general secretary of the engineering union AUEW, and the party's chief fixer, Frazer Kemp MP, discreetly at table together in the members' dining room at Westminster four days after the elections in Scotland and Wales?
In the left-hand corner, the pain-relief junkie, addicted to psychiatrists, painkillers and Prozac; in the right, the stoic with his stiff upper lip. Which camp do you belong to? If you're under 50 and raised in this country, probably the former.
The one I feel sorry for is Mr Flett. Eric, his name seems to be. You know the story, do you? Kathryn Flett is a feature writer on the Observer. A few years ago her husband of just 17 months abruptly told her he was leaving. Well, that's men for you.
Brixton has been transformed, since last month's nail bomb explosion, into a political circus.
A green thumb is sexier than a tongue stud; a flourishing allotment more coveted than a Notting Hill address. Garden centres have sprouted up and down the country; gardening shows proliferate on the box.
Margaret Thatcher went to war in a tank, Tony Blair goes to war in an open-necked shirt and black jeans. The Iron Lady's memorable photo opportunity came when she donned headscarf and goggles and sailed past, a tanked-up Britannia. When Blair went to Washington in a hawkish mode he wore a suit.
Ever since I mixed up Antonioni and Fellini at Dave Spier's 40th birthday bash I've had to watch myself whenever the conversation turns to film. Somehow I never seem to have the same philosophical purchase on auteur theory as I do on early Marx or middle-period Foucault.
New Labour's successes in Scotland and Wales mask a growing panic among MPs in marginal seats.
The Caribbean masses are stirring. The peoples of these tiny island states have long followed a pattern of rebellious behaviour. One island explodes and then the others follow in a train of revolt. Thus was modern democracy established in the Caribbean in the 1930s.
I suspected the conversation was spinning out of control when Geoff started on about Victorian penises. Until then I'd been rather satisfied with the first meeting of Paradox, our new conversation club.
William Hague is thinking about who to sack. Tory insiders say he will reshuffle his shadow cabinet after the May elections if results are "good" (in other words, anything better than a total disaster), or in June, after the European elections.
I went to see Elvis Costello at the Albert Hall with an old friend whom I first met at university. The first time we went to see Costello together was in 1979. Has any pop performer ever been more resistant to routine? More eager to develop musically?
It was just what you'd expect of a middle-aged birthday celebration: a modest, slightly self-conscious affair, with all the excitement of a bottle of plonk and a few stale crackers with cheese spread.
On 26 March the New Statesman published a letter by Derek Fatchett, the Foreign Office minister, objecting to my suggestion that the enforced suffering of the people of Iraq by the US and British governments was a crime comparable with those of General Pinochet or General Suharto or Hen