Diary: More trouble for Sir Fred
Tuesday 12 October 2010
Sir Fred Goodwin knows the perils of hedging only too well, but that hasn't stopped him getting into a spot of bother over his leylandii. Following vandalistic attacks on the ex-RBS boss's house in Edinburgh Grange last year, Goodwin has bought a new property in upmarket Colinton, with a state-of-the-art security system, tennis court and a fountain in the driveway. Sadly, the £3.5m mansion is ringed by 25ft trees, which neighbours complain blocks sunlight to their gardens. Sir Fred is yet to move into the house, first built for his fellow bullish Scot Graeme Souness. But Alan Haxton, chair of the neighbourhood association, told Scotland on Sunday that The Shred responded "satisfactorily" to requests for a meeting about the matter. This may not placate one particular local: the retired businessman Furhan Majid insists that endless extensions have brought the mansion's reaches within six feet of his back garden. "When the builders are in," he says, "I can hear them talking in the kitchen." More on this story as it develops.
* Last week I reported that Leo Johnson (whose siblings include the Mayor of London, the MP for Orpington and the editor of The Lady) was preparing to launch a TV career. He was then unreachable in South America, but has since called to clarify. "Your story was almost entirely accurate," he reassured me. "The only minor discrepancies being that I'm not [planning a TV career]; and even if I was, no one in the industry would be remotely interested." There's a grain of truth to the tale, however: Johnson was visiting Colombia to present a programme for BBC World, in association with his firm, PwC, about a sustainable gold-mining operation in the Choco jungle. "It'll be broadcast in December," he says. "The idea is to scale up these transformational companies with PwC, and make them work." And what of the 2002 feature film he directed, Eating and Weeping, the existence of which was revealed to me by his father, Stanley? "It was described by Sam Goldwyn Jnr of MGM as the worst story he'd ever heard," admits Johnson. "It's the mainstream Hollywood tale of Stanko, a Bulgarian pastry chef who accidentally causes the collapse of capitalism." Is it still available on DVD? "Lord, no. It's unwatchable to the human eyeball."
* Lembit Opik, ex-MP for Montgomeryshire, looks increasingly unlikely to be named the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London. But he's not about to let that stop him clinging to the scenery as his former party colleagues try to drag him from the limelight. In fact, the glamour model-bothering celebrity diner has been calling friends to let them know he's finally had some encouraging news. "Over the weekend I was elected to The Caravan Club's council," he declares, proudly. "It was obviously nice to do well in an election for a change – although it probably helped out that I technically had no one standing against me."
* Al Pacino's last major role was as himself, in a commercial for an Australian coffee brand. But he's due for a return to the silver screen, playing Phil Spector – he of the hairdos – in an HBO biopic written and directed by David Mamet, whose Glengarry Glen Ross earned the actor an Oscar nomination in 1993. Pacino and Spector are both 70, so I must assume that the film will be concerned not with Spector's spectacular early career as a record producer, but with his more recent travails as a wild-eyed convicted murderer – a part for which Pacino has ample qualifications.
* Congratulations to Peter Willmott of Taunton, who produced a poser for Rod Liddle to answer at the annual "Turn the Tables" lunch, hosted by Cancer Research, at which MPs get to grill their journalist adversaries. Where, Mr Willmott wondered, would Liddle take Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, on a date? "We might go to a kebab shop called Stavros in Peckham," Liddle told his interlocutor, the Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne. "And then to my place after that, behind the bins of Kentucky Fried Chicken." Ah, sighed adjudicator Steve Pound MP, "The art of romance is not dead". A bottle of bubbly is on its way to Somerset.
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