If a French national museum wishes to buy a work of art at auction, it simply exercises its 'right of pre-emption'. Substituting itself for the final bidder, which is what this means, is less fair than it sounds - word invariably gets out about the museum's intentions and few bother to bid. In France, as in Italy, Germany and Spain, any work of art deemed of national importance cannot legally leave its shores, a circumstance which once again significantly reduces its market value.
A trip to Northern Cyprus is a trip to the 1970s. While the Greek South of the island - home to the Russian Mafia and to the ecstasy-induced raves of Ayia Napa -seethes in corrupt prosperity, the Turkish North indulges in the gentler delights of crazy paving, the New Seekers and Ford Capris. Neither the dried flowers nor the lurid earthenware lamps in my hotel had been changed since the current Turkish manager took the place over from its unfortunate Greek owner; while the second-hand bookshops in northern Nicosia have clearly had no new stock since partition, and are consequently full of paperbacks about Harold Wilson and the dangers of joining the Common Market.
Things have to come a pretty pass, eh, when an institution as self-consciously august as the University of Oxford has to headhunt a perjuring philanderer to be its next chancellor; even if the felon happens to be the President of the United States (there are no former presidents, of course, just as alumnae of St Paul's girls' school are Paulinas till their dying day). Not since the Albanians asked C.