I walked Clyde, our golden retriever, this morning. My daughter, Emily, joined me. We opted for the open fields around Bertem, an, area rich in birdlife. Clyde is wonderful but he has one drawback – he smells. No, he stinks. Worse, he never misses an opportunity to roll himself in something indescribable. This morning I took my eye of him at the end of the walk and… What a pong. I had to shampoo him in the garden when we got back but the smell still lingers faintly in my nostrils.

I spent the afternoon unpacking cases and wondering how the Commission will deal with Mandelson’s departure. The suddenness of it all must be quite a shock for his staff.

It’s been a grim week for my pen friend on North Carolina’s Death Row, Walic C Thomas, and his fellow inmates. A Superior Court Judge ruled a year ago that the North Carolina Medical Board had overstepped its authority by threatening to punish physicians for participating in executions. The Board adopted the policy early last year, arguing that the profession’s code of ethics should prevent physicians from taking part in an execution. The policy effectively triggered a moratorium on the death penalty in N.C., which has not executed an inmate since August 2006 (State law requires that a doctor be present during a lethal injection and a federal judge insisted last year that a doctor should oversee the process of putting an inmate to death). But now the High Court has agreed to hear the dispute, with arguments scheduled for 18 November. Nichola Glasse, one of the angels at Lifelines, informed us that: ‘Most of our pen friends will have seen the announcement on the television or their friends will have told them, so they might need more support. I thought it best that you know what is going on now in case your pen friends stops writing, or is more depressed than usual, as this will have a huge effect on the atmosphere on the row at Central Prison.’ I bet! It’s a ghastly process and an issue to which I shall be returning.