Published: 31/01/2002, Volume II2, No. 5790 Page 97

Monitor likes to think of himself as a man of the world.

Oh yes, he's been around a bit. He can remember the times when hanging out with Dai Llewellyn, Peter Stringfellow and a bevvy of attractive ladies was just a typical Tuesday night. Oh yes! Monitor has enjoyed his fair share of shepherd's pie and Krug, too. But though those memories are pretty damn hazy, Monitor is sure he would remember if he had come across Nigel Crisp in the Jacuzzi.

No, Monitor is pretty sure that Crispy Nige wasted the 1980s building a career in NHS management. More fool him. For now he is at the top, his deficiencies on the entertainment front are well and truly exposed. Sure, no-one would expect a consummate career NHS manager such as Mr Crisp to produce Quiche Lorraine on tap, but oh Nigel, there are standards! If the latest rumours are true, one could hardly trust the NHS chief exec to rustle up a bag of Twiglets for a special occasion.

It was such a sweet idea to invite the successful chief execs appointed to lead strategic health authorities to a knees-up to celebrate their good fortune! But it wasn't so clever to accidentally include all the failed candidates on the invitation list, too. And whose idea was it to then (ahem) 'un-invite' those who hadn't made the grade? Oh Nigel, Nigel! Monitor suggests you pick up a copy of Debrett's before you host your next bash.

The world of look-alikes is a fascinating one. Indeed, over the years, Monitor's passing resemblance - in a soft light - to an ageing Errol Flynn, has not gone un-noticed. Once, a drunken fool ludicrously suggested a likeness to Leonard Rossiter, God rest his soul: Monitor has never worn his beige cardigan since! Still, one can't help but wonder if the Confed's quote machine, Nigel Edwards, rather took against Monitor's suggestion that he and the roly-poly thesp Timothy Spall were the very same man. Nige has been heard to rail, in a somewhat unconvincing manner, that he has never heard of Herr Spall, he of Auf Wiedersehn Pet fame (pictured left). But one of HSJ 's team of undercover lady hacks spotted the voice of the Confed recently and was impressed by his almost svelte physique. She even wondered if he had 'done a Lawson' (and we do not mean Nigella).

Speaking of celebrity chefs, it seemed as good a time as any to bring up primary care's dead ringer for Keith Floyd. Stand up Michael Dixon, NHS Alliance star (pictured right).

On the question of hospital food, Monitor was somewhat perplexed to spot in Computing magazine a lively debate on the topic of eating packing materials. Yes, hundreds of IT-minded sorts got in touch to discuss the taste factor of polystyrene chips, including one James Bostock of University Hospital Lewisham, who said they 'certainly do not taste any worse than the food in our staff canteen'.

Elsewhere, the media were having fun with the NorthSouth divide, with the home counties' finest queuing up to pour scorn on their Northern counterparts, following the news that Yorkshire's Airedale General Hospital has ditched the new swanky NHS menu. Anne Molloy, 81, a patient at Farnborough Hospital in leafy Kent, put it best: 'I suppose We are a bit more sophisticated than people up North. Maybe they're not ready for this kind of thing yet.'

And finally, Monitor was cheered to see our friends across the Channel doing their bit for the NHS. France won enthusiastic plaudits for its treatment of the first batch of NHS walking-wounded in the stylish surroundings of one of Lille's premier private hospitals.

But it is surely strange that Monsieur le health minister, the charismatic Bernard Kouchner, founder of Medicin sans FrontiÞres , who just a few weeks ago described Britain's health service as 'medieval', appears powerless to keep his own health workers off the streets. And the slightest suggestion that anyone in the dark recesses of the DoH might feel the teensiest big smug at this unfortunate turn of events is surely well wide of the mark. Vive la différence!