With an election looming, the Japanese government will not want to provoke nationalist wrath. That is one reason why the Maritime Safety Agency has been reluctant to say if or when it will authorise that troublesome lighthouse on the Diaoyu Islands. Wondering what excuses the agency could find for further delay, Quarry Bay called its headquarters. There were many aspects to be checked, an official told us. Whether the light worked and was properly positioned, plus whether it had any real navigational role. And there had to be consultations with the island's owner. We pointed out that the owner had already publicly denounced the Japan Youth Federation, which set up the lighthouse, for trespassing on his land. Mmmm, said the official, but the lighthouse safety officer would still have to contact him by letter. Would diplomatic relations be taken into account in the decision, we asked. At this point, we were put on hold while the official position was checked more carefully. Finally, the Foreign Relations Division came back to us with some carefully prepared answers. Diplomatic considerations would not be taken into account by the Maritime Safety Agency, we were told. But after it had finished its work, the matter would be examined by the whole government - and all aspects, including diplomatic relations, would be considered. Our ears pricked up! What? So the government could still decide to dismantle the lighthouse for diplomatic reasons? Er . . ., said the nervous functionary, it could refuse authorisation. But if the structure did not bother anyone - anyone Japanese, that is - it would be very hard for the government to order it to be taken down. Ian Strachan, who is retiring as Director of Social Welfare, said last week he might be going to theological college in Britain. Last month, we heard Government Property Administrator Ian Wootherspoon was planning a new career as a Church of Scotland minister. We knew there was life after Hong Kong. But this looks like preparation for the afterlife. The Governor's plans for a book to be written while he takes six months off in the south of France after the handover have hit the headlines again in Britain. This time it was the Daily Telegraph which reported his plan to produce a work of popular political philosophy based on the lessons he learned in the territory. 'Yes, yes, we know all that,' said one of our London correspondents. 'But the thing is that the Governor's only ever written one book before, The Tory Case. 'That took him a lot longer to write than he expected. Looking through newspaper cuttings from that period I found him repeatedly predicting it was almost finished, only to find another cutting saying the same thing six months or a year later.' Oh dear. Perhaps Mr Patten's publisher should take note of the word from Government House that six months is not necessarily a deadline.