Diary: Choccies fit for a Queen (Mother)
Wednesday 02 February 2011
As I set to work on the screenplay for my notional joint biopic of squeaker George (né Gideon) Osborne and stammerer Ed Balls (working title: A Cock and Balls), I'm minded to avoid the accusations of inaccuracy that have been levelled at its inspiration, multi-Oscar nominee The King's Speech. While Christopher Hitchens has warned that the film dodges the troublesome topic of Winston Churchill's loyalty to Edward VIII, my sources have revealed an equally uncomfortable historical error. Nick Crean, chairman of Prestat hocolate and tcruffles, complains that, in the film, the late Queen Mother (played by Helena Bonham-Carter) and her husband George VI are seen eating marshmallow candies – in 1936. These particular confections were not available, Mr Crean insists, until the late 1940s. "Billy Tallon, the Queen Mother's colourful steward, told me Her Majesty had a lifelong love of classic English rose and violet creams," he explains. "They travelled everywhere with her." And went down nicely with a gin and Dubonnet, I have no doubt.
* Friends of Sebastian Faulks, formerly of this parish, assure me he's a good sort. Yet rival writers can't help but knock the great man. Yesterday I reported that Michael Arditti, Linda Grant, Susan Hill and Amanda Craig had slighted him ahead of his BBC series, Faulks on Fiction. Today comes this tale, added to their Facebook-based Faulks-bashing by biographer Julian Evans. "I interviewed Faulks once at home," Evans recalls. "I'd made notes in a notebook that sat on the chair arm while we talked. We drank most of a bottle of wine he generously provided and towards the end I needed a pee. Before I left the room I closed my notebook, I thought inconspicuously, because my notes included some very unflattering observations about the way he created characters. When I came back his mood had completely changed, from expansive and charming to monosyllabic. I left to a chilly goodbye. I've always felt a bit chastened, but when I do I think, 'Whose was the greater sin – mine (horridness) or his (spying)?' Then I think grandiosely that of course my comments helped prick him to less facile characterisation in future. Not much less..." Pride, thy name is Sebastian.
* On the subject of grandiosity and facile characterisation, yesterday's third-person recollections of the WikiLeaks affair from The Guardian's David Leigh were worthy of an airport bestseller. "David Leigh," wrote David Leigh, "sat in a rented cottage in the Scottish Highlands. The Guardian's investigations editor had originally planned to spend his annual summer holiday with his wife, hill-walking in the Grampians. But the summits of Dreish, Mayar, Lochnagar and Cat Law went unconquered. He sat transfixed at his desk instead, while the sun rose and set daily on the heather-covered hills outside. On the tiny silver Hewlett Packard memory stick plugged into his MacBook were the full texts of more than 250,000 diplomatic cables. To search through them was maddening, tiring – and utterly compelling." Next week, Leigh reveals the true location of the Holy Grail.
* The Guardian's "project of astonishing boldness, which stood a chance of redefining journalism", was also compared (by The Guardian) to HBO drama The Wire: editors, including the eminent Alan Rusbridger, purchased leak-proof, pay-as-you-go "burner" phones to outsmart the police. Sadly, Rusbridger couldn't remember any of the numbers and was forced to resort to texting his deputy's regular phone. Remarkably, the "cops" did not "swoop" as they'd feared. The Wire, the paper explained, "was popular among some Guardian staff," as anyone reading The Guardian in the last five years will have gathered. The paper also compared the WikiLeaks affair to the Bourne films, in which a Guardian journalist was shot dead by an assassin. Reports that Rusbridger now wears a flak jacket to morning conference remain unconfirmed.
* Another hack accustomed to claiming his life is in danger is News of the World investigations editor and "fake sheikh" Mazher Mahmood, who was in Doha last month for the ICC's Pakistan spot-fixing trial, concluding this weekend. Attendees were surprised to see the secretive Mahmood give evidence in public, without his customary disguise – particularly in Qatar, where it would, for once, have been inconspicuous.
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