The demise of Charles Haughey on Tuesday ended a colourful life in Irish politics. Whatever his faults – and it must be said he was a bit of a rascal – he did have a sense of humour.

Here’s a story worth retelling. After his second term as Taoiseach in 1982, Joe Joyce and Peter Murtagh wrote a book about his time in office entitled The Boss, which shed light on the shenanigans that later returned to haunt Haughey.

Cheekily, Joyce applied to take advantage of the Irish tax exemption granted to artists, a measure brought in by Haughey himself when he was finance minister. The taxman told Joyce that since the exemption was for the creative arts it could only apply to fiction. When Haughey heard this, the story goes, he wrote to the tax authorities himself, assuring them that Joyce’s entire book was a work of fiction.

Without a paddle

A party the other night to celebrate the 70th birthday of Lord Holme, who as Richard Holme was president of the Liberal Party in long gone pre-merger days, was attended by many of the great and the good, especially those of a middle of the road, pro-Europe bias.

Banx cartoon

Held aboard a paddle-steamer on the Thames, the champagne flowed as the likes of Lord Ashdown, Lady Williams, Lord Fowler and Baroness Jay mingled. As he surveyed the throng, Lord Howe was heard to remark that should the boat sink, it would be a good day for obituarists but a bad one for the European cause.

D-J spins new tune

Good to know that Google’s UK arm is an equal opportunities employer. Rachel Whetstone, the former political secretary to Michael Howard who now runs the search engine’s communications across Europe, has signed up D-J Collins, a former Labour government spin doctor, to run its communications and public affairs in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands. This after Tuesday’s news that the Tories had hired Sam Roake, a former Googler, to work on its internet strategy.

Collins cut his teeth at what was then the Amalgamated Electrical and Engineering Union before three years as head of news for the Department for Education and Skills and two years in the private sector.

In case this all sounds a bit old economy for the Internet 2.0 age, Collins does at least bring a quirky hyphenated first name, short for David-John. “I’ve no idea why my parents did it,” he sighs. “It must have been a really hot summer.”

Car-mon, England

More World Cup madness, this time from the lads at the Toyota factory in Derbyshire. Forty of them spent two 12 hour shifts lining up 280 white and 92 red cars to form a vast St George’s Cross in the car park. It seems a lot of man hours to line up 372 cars.

Nevertheless the bosses at the plant were behind the idea 100 per cent (phew, not 300 per cent then). Perhaps that’s because of another little World Cup related fact Toyota would like to mention: 1966 was its first full year of selling cars to the UK.

Then it was pushing the Corona, a boxy-looking saloon that still had those wing mirrors that were stuck on the – wait for it – wings. It cost £1,000, or more if you wanted seatbelts, a carpet and a radio, and had a top speed of a mere 87mph. But it did run on petrol costing only six shillings a gallon.

Sticky fingers

A comprehensive school in South Shields has decided to fingerprint its pupils. Not, I’m assured, for the purpose of detecting any breaches of school rules, but to improve the method of paying for school dinners.

If parents consent, the children at Brinkburn School will have an index finger scanned when paying for their lunch, with the cost deducted from a prepaid sum. It will stop all that “I’ve lost my swipe card” nonsense and prevent the little devils spending dinner money on chips and sweets.

But there may be an even better result. If the children can be persuaded that fingers covered in ink, paint, glue or worse won’t work the machine, they might learn to wash their hands before meals.

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