Diary: Chef hot to trot on 'Strictly'

The enchanting Thomasina Miers may already have triumphed in one reality TV competition, but she's keen to take on another. The winner of MasterChef 2005 – who now boasts both a chain of Mexican restaurants (Wahaca) and a forthcoming Channel Five series of her own – Miers, 35, tells me her televisual appetite remains unsatisfied.

"I really want to do Strictly Come Dancing," says the ambitious chef, who is six months pregnant. "The timing is perfect... it would be a perfect opportunity to shift the baby weight."

Confident as ever, Miers even claims to dance better than she cooks, "which perhaps doesn't say much for my cooking". Those still confident that her cooking is her best feature may be concerned to learn that some of the dishes in her TV show Mexican Food Made Simple were inspired by her pregnancy cravings.

"My baby was craving chillies," she reveals. "She loves chillies, and I had to give her what she wanted." Yes, but chillies with what?

* Caring Bob Diamond, 59, Barclays' chief executive, wrote touchingly of his bank's important work in Africa for yesterday's Times. "In the West," Diamond Bob lamented, "banks are often subject to heavy criticism but in Africa... they are seen as an essential tool of economic growth." Which must be nice. And is, presumably, why he chose to spend two weeks in Africa recently, visiting his bank's ventures there without having cheap leftie slogans or rotten eggs chucked his way. One beneficiary of a Barclays charitable scheme was a Kenyan villager called Rose Juma. "With a loan," wrote Bob, palpably moved, "Rose had purchased three donkeys, allowing her to boost her income from transporting water in large plastic drums from the source, some distance from the village. Her trade earns her about 500 Kenyan shillings a day (about £3.75). Rose made it very clear to me that the money has transformed her life." Just a reminder: Bob's salary last year was £250,000 (this year it will be £1.35m); he was also awarded £2.25m for future performance. And then there's the trifling matter of his £6.5m bonus. But I'm guessing he and Rose didn't discuss that.

* Some readers will recall the good old days, when Britain's best known banker was Sir Fred Goodwin, and journalists were allowed to describe him as such without fear of legal action. As this column reported in October, all those leftie slogans, eggs and so on had persuaded Sir Fred to move to a £3.5m mansion set back from the road in the upmarket Edinburgh suburb of Colinton, with a calming Japanese garden in its grounds. But trouble pursued him even there: neighbours complained that his monstrous leylandii blocked their sunlight. Still, it seems even the 25ft hedge was an insufficient barrier between the Shred and an unsympathetic world. As part of his half-million-pound refurbishment, he has spent an estimated £100,000 on extra security – including spiked electronic gates and motion-activated CCTV. Now there's a man who values his privacy.

* News, now, of another property with tight security – though this one is available for a mere £795 per month. The two-bedroom flat above David Cameron's Witney constituency office is up for rent, but any prospective tenants will have to undergo intensive police checks before even being allowed to view the property. And if that's not enough to put them off, the location has already been a target for unsavoury elements: last August two Fathers 4 Justice activists occupied the roof of the apartment while dressed as superheroes (Superman and The Incredible Hulk, to be precise). On the plus side, it has a nice big kitchen.

* The Cuban-heeled Speaker of the House, Senor John Bercow, is doubtless unhappy with the publication of a new unauthorised biography by journalist Bobby Friedman. But one particular inaccuracy will, I'm assured, rankle more than most. Of Senor Bercow's stupendously successful junior tennis career, the book recounts that he regularly bested adults when he was only 12. "Unfortunately," Friedman suggests, "his failure to grow much after the age of 12 put paid to any Wimbledon ambitions." Bercow always maintains he was kept from the court by a lengthy bout of glandular fever in his teens. Height, he insists, was never an impediment – and anyway, he's only two inches shorter than Kim Clijsters.

Update: The final item has since been exposed as cobblers. Senor Bercow's tennis career was indeed curtailed by his height as reported by his biographer Bobby Friedman. For further details, see the following day's column


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