The annual lecture of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust, which has survived the demise of the rfac itself, took place at the Serpentine Gallery last week. To prove there were no hard feelings, culture secretary Chris Smith was guest of honour with Lord St John of Fawsley presiding, complete with japes about Lot's wife ( 'By day a pillar of salt, by night a ball of fire . . .' ), and an anecdote about a visit to Liverpool by commissioners in the early 1990s. All trains to London were cancelled during their visit, and the taxi firms were booked solid. What were the commissioners to do? His Lordship went off for a quiet prayer, and as apparently happens on these occasions, a solution emerged as a particular word entered his mind: hearse. A local undertaker was happy to oblige, and the relieved party travelled back to London in unexpected style . . .