Diary: Blessed in with a shout
News of the contest to become the next chancellor of Cambridge University has tended to focus on the David and Goliath battle between Lord Sainsbury and local shopkeeper Abdul Arain. But this unlikely face-off could be disrupted by the unexpected participation of the leading beard-wearer Brian Blessed. A Facebook campaign by students has resulted in the vocally endowed actor garnering the required 50 nominations to run – and, reports the Cambridge Tab, he has consented to his inclusion on the ballot. This is not the first time that marginally-less-hilarious-than-they-think undergraduates, made giddy by their eclectic DVD collections, have afforded Blessed the status of a campus folk hero. In January a motion was passed by York University's student union, mandating the institution to rename one of its study spaces "The Brian Blessed Centre for Quiet Study".
* A small victory for the Cuban-heeled Speaker of the House, John Bercow, who has finally forced Parliament's bookshop to stock his own biography: Bercow, Mr Speaker: Rowdy Living in the Tory Party by Bobby Friedman. The order means Mr Bercow's colleagues can pick up a copy without leaving Westminster, to use as they see fit. "Bookshops, particularly the parliamentary bookshop, shouldn't be censoring what people can read," Friedman told the Camden New Journal. "I'm grateful but not surprised that John helped to persuade them to do the right thing." The shop's reason for failing to stock the book was not that it considered 320 pages of Señor Bercow's life and times undeserving of its precious shelf space. Rather, they found the cover illustration "offensive" – perhaps because it includes a portrait of Mr Bercow's fragrant wife, Sally, who has a talent for rubbing the right people up the wrong way.
* Foreign Office staff have called in police over a series of minor thefts in their department. Among the missing items deemed significant enough to warrant the attention of the Old Bill were grapes, hair straighteners, a £7 tub of Vaseline, a £10 note, a "novelty rubber", two jars of chilli sauce and a packet of chewing gum (Wrigley's Spearmint flavour, allegedly). Whitehall sources confirmed that the gum did not belong to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. The hair straighteners, we can surmise, weren't his either. As for the novelty rubber and the Vaseline, who knows?
* As this column noted last week, contemporary art impresario Dasha Zhukova and her wallflower beau, one Roman Abramovich, are famed for their impeccable taste. (Unlike their fellow oligarchs, who are still buying – can you bear it? – Andy Warhol!) But it seems to have deserted them at this year's Venice Biennale, where, reports suggest, the city's mayor has complained about the presence of their 377ft super-yacht, moored close to the Biennale Gardens – right in front of a famous view of the lagoon. Couldn't they afford a hotel (a whole one)? "There are so many beautiful places here," a Venetian café owner with strong PR instincts told The Observer. "Why do these people have to bring their houses with them?" Where else, Marco, do you suggest they throw their tasteful parties for their tasteful friends – among them Frank Lampard of Chelsea FC, to whom Abramovich reportedly plans to lend the yacht (including covered pool and 40-strong crew) as a tasteful venue for his marriage proposal to Christine Bleakley?
* Toby Young (educationalist, 47, Conservative with a large "C") says the Hay Festival is still a chastening experience for right-wingers, despite its sponsorship passing from The Guardian to The Telegraph. Crossing the festival site last week with his four young children, he was accosted by a woman yelling "for shame!", so incensed was she by the saturation media coverage of his West London Free School. Next, Young reports on his blog, he came across a young Big Issue vendor. "'Would you like to buy a copy of the Big Issue, Mr Young?' [he] asked ... 'No thanks.' 'I didn't think so,' he said. His tone combined chippiness and moral superiority in equal measure, a speciality of the Welsh. It's come to something when you're looked down upon by a tramp." There's probably a book in it, though, eh?
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