Diary: Can you tell where he's from yet?
Tuesday 09 August 2011
The Berkshire town of Maidenhead has long lived in the shadow of its more glitzy neighbour, Windsor, home to Eton College and the Royal Family's favourite castle.
But this inferiority complex could be inverted if one local councillor gets his way. Conservative Derek Wilson is calling for the forthcoming regeneration of Maidenhead town centre to include a Hollywood-style "Walk of Fame" – or, as this column prefers to call it, "Pavement of Minor Celebrity" – as a tribute to the town's most celebrated residents. "It would be a bit of glamour," Wilson told the Maidenhead Advertiser, "and would draw people in that wouldn't normally come to Maidenhead." Perhaps so, though the provisional list of paving slab recipients is somewhat mixed: Michael "Parky" Parkinson, the late Diana Dors, Timmy Mallet and Rolf Harris, (who is from Australia, and actually lives down the road in Bray).
*If I tell you that this column's staff of one slaves away, around the clock (or at least eight hours thereof) for four whole days per week – at least 46 weeks per year – you'll surely understand that I'm unimpressed by the notion of the Prime Minister (not to mention the Chancellor, Home Secretary and Mayor of London) taking anything so indulgent as a "holiday". Still, the absence of senior politicians has given their junior colleagues a chance to steal the limelight, among them David Lammy, much-admired MP for Tottenham, site of the weekend's first riot.
Lammy was once tipped as Labour-leadership material after entering Parliament in 2000, aged just 27. But despite the patronage of Tony Blair and others, he now languishes on the back benches. Some trace the waning of his powers to an appearance on Celebrity Mastermind in 2008 when, asked to name the son of Henry VIII, he replied: "Henry VII."
*As well as over-tipping local waitresses, the PM has spent his holiday on the tennis court. Dave and his Tuscan holiday housemates spent last week receiving lessons from an Italian pro; this week, a British coach – reportedly the boyfriend of one of the nannies present – flew out to work on Dave's backhand. Might the PM's commitment have been inspired by the news, also disclosed to this column, that his deputy, Nick Clegg, has been discreetly taking private tennis classes himself? Cameron boasted that he beat Clegg when they played shortly after the election, by being "more wily" than his rival. A tasty rematch awaits.
*One of many tweeting their disquiet in London on Sunday was "large-C" Conservative and educationalist Toby Young, who claimed a "major police operation" was "under way in East Acton". Other local residents soon began breathlessly alleging that a riot was in progress at the Westfield shopping centre. Not so: H&M et al had suffered not a single thrown litter bin. Yet it seems only fair to give Toby credit for vigilance, given that his sleepy corner of west London seems to be at the epicentre of a summer crime wave.
In June, he revealed in his Spectator column that his six-year-old, Ludo, had been robbed in broad daylight by a vindictive youth while selling fresh lemonade. And just last week, Toby reported that two men had broken into a neighbour's house at 4.20am, not the first such incident in the area. On this occasion, however, said neighbour had the presence of mind to leap from his bed, grab a hammer and chase the men down the street with no clothes on.
*Also on columnists, you'll recall I reported in May on the sad end of Simon Heffer's thrice-weekly Telegraph polemics. Heffer told distraught colleagues he was departing the paper, "to pursue a role in journalism and broadcasting that will allow him to complete a major literary project while developing his academic interests". Now, however, I bring glad tidings to anyone who loves the English language (the old version, at least) and hates Dave Cameron: Heffer has been sighted in the Associated Newspapers canteen consorting with Daily Mail staff no less (or should that be "no fewer"?) than three times in the last ("past"?) week.
The impeccable sources that I may or may not have overheard talking in a lift tell me "The Heff" has just been appointed "online comment editor" for the Mail's madly successful website. Whether that means he'll be gracing us with words of his own is unclear, but I expect the grammar in Mail Online's next Selena Gomez story to be impeccable.
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