Diary: Hugh's hair-raising rescue
Bespectacled celebrity cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall may be a campaigner for sustainable fishing, but it sounds as though his sea legs recently deserted him. On Monday the River Cottager ran aground in his 19-foot boat West of Beer Head in Devon, with his 10-year-old son Oscar on board. Lifeboats were scrambled to rescue the stricken pair, and they were finally dragged from the perilous rocks after courageous crew-person Naomi Firth swam to their boat to attach the necessary tow rope and winch it ashore. But – double disaster – Firth did not even recognise the famous man off the telly whom she'd rescued. "Embarrassingly enough, it didn't register," Firth said afterwards. "He's had his hair cut."
* Regular readers will have noted that yesterday's edition of The Independent carried a devastating George (né Gideon) Osborne-related scoop. No, not the stuff about that old alleged-cocaine-and-prostitution picture, but this column's exclusive report on the Chancellor having taken up jogging. Seeing as my colleagues on the news desk have raised the matter of that photo again, it's worth relating just how much of a stink it caused in the Osborne household. I'm reliably informed that when the photo was first published by Andy Coulson's News of the World in 2005, Gideon was admirably stoical about being pictured in such close proximity to a professional dominatrix and a line of what may or may not have been Colombian marching powder, which (by the way) he denied ever having sampled. What really worried the then-shadow Chancellor was that it showed him smoking a cigarette. According to my (probably) impeccable sources, Gideon had been smoking socially for much of his youth, but had disguised the fact from Mater and Pater Osborne for fear of incurring their disapproval. Until the picture was published, they had remained blissfully unaware of their son's unsavoury vice.
* A dispatch from the Desmond Empire, where on Monday journalists gathered for the press launch of Big Brother: The Richard Desmond Years. This sort of event is normally reserved for hacks of a showbiz-reporting persuasion, yet among the guests, I'm told, were two national newspaper editors, Hugh Whittow and Dawn Neesom, who'd taken time out of their busy schedules to attend. Are the pair just huge BB fans? Perhaps, but they also happen to helm the Daily Express and Daily Star respectively – both titles owned by the philanthropist and former publisher of Asian Babes himself, not-Sir Richard Desmond. Pointing out the endless synergies between not-Sir Richard's burgeoning collection of brands is becoming redundant, but I'm glad to hear his editors are allowed to enjoy champagne and canapés in return for plugging his other businesses so loyally.
* Still, it's not all cheap wine and Cadbury Roses in Desmondland: OK! TV presenters Kate Walsh and Matt Johnson got the chop earlier this week, which ought to be humiliation enough. Just to rub salt in the wound, however, they were replaced by Jenny Frost and Jeff Brazier. Said one suspiciously loyal (or delusional?) commenter on the Channel 5 message boards: "Can't believe this is the last day for Kate & Matt! It has been a fantastic six months, the both of you have cheered up our evenings with your great chemistry, interview style and the great banter between you both! It's [the] end of a era... I and many others will miss it." Not all the comments were so elegiac. "Thank God this muppet show is finished," wrote "Tom", while "Ian" opined: "Talk about flogging a dead horse. Please for the love of God retire this so-called programme."
* Concentration-camp guards, Ratko Mladic and now Hitler: Ken Livingstone does enjoy a good/bad historical analogy. Yesterday he was quoted by Total Politics as having joked that the forthcoming London mayoral election would be "a simple choice between good and evil", like "the great struggle between Churchill and Hitler". Harmless banter, whatever Conservative HQ may claim, but it does reflect badly on Livingstone's imagination – or lack thereof. For while he opted for the generic Churchill/Hitler simile, his rival demonstrated the breadth of his literary expertise when speaking on the subject last year. The mayoral race, alleged babydaddy Boris Johnson told a ConservativeHome rally, will be "between Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra, Holmes and Moriarty, Harry Potter and Voldemort."
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