When one runs into a fellow vacationer abroad, talk naturally turns to home. So it was that at last weekend's "Istancool" cultural festival in Istanbul, I found myself hobnobbing with Courtney Love, who told me how much she adored the British tabloids.
"They're my guiltiest pleasure," admitted the demure chanteuse, who has enjoyed her fair share of encounters with the red-top press. "By the time you get them in America, they're out of date, so you've missed out on Kerry Katona's latest situation."
Never let it be said that the Hole frontperson's tastes are merely trashy, however. When pressed, she told me that she subscribes to just three publications (sadly, this newspaper is not among them): "I get Country Life, Tatler and The Lady," Love claimed. "Because that's where you get the best help [governesses, butlers etc]. I always wanted to be on the cover of Tatler, but then a friend of mine explained exactly why I shouldn't be. So now I just want to be on it as a sort of 'Fuck you'."
* As Tony Blair's government warmed up for war in Iraq in 2002, the maverick Labour backbencher Bob Marshall-Andrews was understandably eager to inform the public of his opposition to the conflict. So he would happily answer the many calls from radio and television outlets keen to broadcast his views. "I would arrive breathlessly at the telephone," he recalls, "indicating that I would be delighted to discuss the latest pronouncements on Iraq, or the veracity of the dodgy dossiers. My offers were politely declined. Instead, my contribution would be sought on the ongoing trial of Paul Burrell."
Marshall-Andrews – who stood down as an MP last year and has just published a parliamentary memoir, Off Message – is a staunch republican. As such, he seemed (to the BBC et al, at least) a natural interviewee when Princess Diana's former butler went on trial for allegedly stealing his late employer's possessions. "I became increasingly frustrated as I wanted to talk about foreign policy," he goes on. When the Queen finally stepped in to save Burrell's bacon, Marshall-Andrews commented: "Mr Burrell was duly acquitted and no doubt returned home to play with Princess Diana's personal effects in the privacy of his own garage."
* After confessing his ignorance of the offside rule and mistakenly blaming the Hillsborough disaster on hooliganism, it seemed only sporting that total Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt should acquire a football refereeing qualification. As recently as April, his people promised me that he would referee his first juniors' game, in secret, "before the end of the season". It's now almost a week since the Champions League final, so I thought I'd check in to see how he fared. After all, with Fifa well and truly in turmoil, Hunt seemed just the fellow to restore honour and dignity to the game. "Er, Jeremy hasn't actually refereed the match yet," a nervous sounding DCMS source told me yesterday. "The plan is to do it sometime after the summer, but we won't know until it happens." Make sure you keep me informed, chaps. And do take pictures.
* Some of us (Courtney Love, for example) probably find breakfast television and the sound of retching to be not-unfamiliar bedfellows. Still, it was something of a shock to hear Kate Silverton's normally dulcet tones interrupted by a chillingly authentic almost-puke yesterday morning. Ms Silverton blamed her unseemly nausea on a combination of pregnancy and the nasty stink of her studio guest's new "scratch-and-sniff" book. But then, the aforementioned guest was David Walliams, who has been known to have the same effect on others.
* Fabulous news for the chattering classes of north London and beyond: a senior representative of the US government has pledged to bring the full force of the law to bear on the creators of The Wire, to persuade them to produce a sixth series of the President's favourite television drama. Eric Holder, the Attorney General, invited three of the Baltimore-set show's stars to DC this week to help launch an anti-drugs campaign. "I want to speak directly to [Ed] Burns and [David] Simon: Do another season of The Wire," Holder told an enthusiastic audience. "I want another season or I want a movie. I have a lot of power." Hear, hear. Treme was tedious, anyway.