Diary: Rossi's refrain for Richard


High Street Ken

"Bloke sandwich" may sound like one of Jeremy Clarkson's special moves; in fact, it refers to any event requiring a Top Gear host to be in the same room as Status Quo.

Such an event was last week's Rock Ball 2011, to raise money for Crohn's and Colitis UK, at which the Quo dedicated one of their tunes to compere Richard Hammond.

Before beginning a rendition of "Don't Drive My Car" frontman Francis Rossi declared: "This next song I want to dedicate to that man, what's his name? Something to do with a keyboard. Hammond. Richard Hammond. Hi Richard."

The lyrics were modified thus: "I'm telling you Richard, don't push me too far. I'm telling you straight, don't drive my car!"

Hammond, seriously injured in a high-speed crash in 2006, seemed to take the joke well.

It was, perhaps, revenge for the failure to include Quo's hit on the 2007 double-CD compilation Top Gear Anthems: The Greatest Ever Driving Songs.

* With this column's "No Royals" policy all but abolished, news that Prince Harry chose a tame surfing trip to the West Country for his brother's stag do led me to wonder whether he's been taking his father's advice. I'm reminded, in particular, of Patrick Bury's military memoir, Callsign Hades, which includes a diary entry from 2006, soon after Harry finished his military training at Sandhurst and was caught patronising the Slough branch of Spearmint Rhino. Princes Charles and Hal are attending a regimental dinner, where Bury overhears their conversation. "Harry has recently been in the papers for falling out of a strip joint in Slough," Bury recalls. "During dinner Prince Charles turns to Harry: 'I don't mind you going to strip joints, but for heaven's sake, Slough?"

* Another pot-stirring Telegraph column from London mayor and alleged babydaddy Boris Johnson, who claims to have been playing tennis with his wife this weekend when he spotted Labour spinner Tom Baldwin wandering past, deep in telephone conversation with an anonymous colleague. Baldwin, writes the eavesdropping Boris, insisted loudly that "the key message today has got to be that it's all a complete mess". What's a complete mess? Boris wondered, chuntering back to the baseline. And now, I suspect, he has his answer. The Health Bill, declared Little Ed Miliband in a speech yesterday, is the source of a "sense of utter confusion and chaos". How heartening to learn the Labour spin team still works on Sundays – and that Mrs Johnson regularly beats her husband at tennis.

* More now from the juvenilia of educationalist Toby Young, specifically his sixth-form letter to fellow Tory Harry Phibbs. Young's rural upbringing, it seems, offers clues as to why he rejected so vehemently the lefty politics of his pater, Michael Young, upon whose House of Lords headed notepaper he composed the aforementioned letter. "Here is a brief history of my political carreer [sic]," writes the young Young. "Having been a victim of a bohemian upbringing, and living in a small, socialist community in Devon surrounded by feminists and hippies of every (unspeakable) description, I decided to start up a provocative organisation which I suitably named 'Combat Communism'." Socialists, feminists and hippies: a combination to drive even a teen to the Tories.

* This paper's illustrious LA correspondent, Guy Adams, is not a book reviewer by trade, so professes himself "vaguely flattered" to join novelist Don DeLillo and Pulitzer-winning New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani on the cover of The Pale King, the soon-to-be-published posthumous novel by David Foster Wallace. Above quotes from DeLillo and Kakutani, comes this, attributed to Adams: "One of the most influential voices of this or any other generation... Wallace was an author of unstoppable curiosity, imagination and ambition." An archive search reveals the comments come from Adams' 2008 report of Wallace's death, and are preceded by the qualifiers: "might – in a different existence – have become..." and "To his many cult fans..." Wallace was universally acclaimed, and publishers Penguin could have used undistorted praise from, say, Zadie Smith ("He was an actual genius") or Jonathan Franzen ("the most commanding and exciting and inventive rhetorical virtuosity of any writer alive"). I presume they were simply unable to resist a puff from such a prestigious publication.


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