Diary: Some light relief at Heston's


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The Independent Online

Heston Blumenthal's eclectic tastes are not confined to food, it would appear. The iconoclastic chef's new London establishment, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, is due to open this month at the Mandarin Oriental hotel beside Hyde Park. And its main design attraction, should you happen to glance up from your snail porridge, will be a vast, udder-shaped chandelier.

The restaurant's New York-based interior designers apparently had some difficulty finding a manufacturer who could effectively realise their vision for the pendulous lighting feature. They finally settled on Tom and Kim Atherton, founders of the Liquid Glass Centre near Trowbridge in Wiltshire.

It took the experienced glassblowers three days of blowing to create the three long glass domes and their teats. "They're very, very big," Kim said. "We did have a few jokes about it, but I think 'udders' is quite a good description". I, sadly, have just the one joke about it. (It looks like boobs.)

* More tension in Milibandland this weekend, as Arsenal faced Leeds United in the FA Cup third round. Former future Labour leader Miliband (D) is a Gunner, while his troublesome sibling claims to be a Leeds supporter. Insiders suggest, however, that while Miliband (D) is a "proper Arsenal fan" – who frequently attends matches and can discuss tactics with the fluency of a Match of the Day pundit (Alan Shearer, specifically) – Miliband (E) is anything but. Says one pot-stirring Labour MP, "It's like David Cameron claiming to support Aston Villa. If you asked Ed to name the current Leeds line-up off the cuff, I think he'd have difficulties." Leeds are known as giant-killers, having knocked out Man Utd in the third round of last year's competition. The Arsenal game, however, finished in an unsatisfactory draw. A replay is in the offing, as Miliband (D) will have noted. Miliband (E) probably has no idea.

* An awkward moment for the Labour leader during a press conference yesterday, when he mistook Talksport's lobby hack Sean Dilley for the BBC's political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue. These journalists all look the same, you might well argue, except that Miliband (E)'s confusion appeared to be premised on both Dilley and O'Donoghue being blind. Should anyone question him on this unfortunate lapse into prejudice, I'd advise him to resort to that old defence: some of his party's best former home secretaries are blind.

* This column's hard-won reputation for factual vagueness had been waning, so I'm pleased to amend an item from Friday's edition, about leylandii-loving former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin and his new workplace, RMJM: the world's fifth-largest architectural firm. It had been reported (not least by me) that the outfit's other star hire, architect Will Alsop, was having difficulty attracting new business. "Not true," writes Alsop, in possibly the briefest email of complaint I've ever received. Since I first wrote of the dearth of work at RMJM, Alsop has been reported as having brought in at least 10 commissions to the cash-strapped company, none of which he mentioned specifically in his concise missive to me, modest chap that he is.

No word, however, from Sir Fred on why his desk has been empty for so long, so I can only assume Alsop's achievements came in the weeks when the Shred was away enjoying the fruits of his alleged six-figure salary. After all, the disgraced former financier is most value for money when he's on the golf course, or at lunch, or pruning his hedge – anywhere, in fact, but at his desk.

* Finally, I'd like to say Happy New Year to Rory Stewart MP, this column's favourite former soldier, adventurer, diplomat, academic, prince among men and man among princes – only I can't, because he won't talk to me. Meanwhile Marianne Brown, my new, twine-belted correspondent in Stewart's Penrith and The Border constituency, tells me she's seen and heard nothing of her MP during Parliament's extended holiday – and MPs, she complains, "always say they need so much time off to carry out their obligations in their constituencies". Well, Marianne, the poor chap does have a lot of ground to cover; P and the B is the largest constituency in the country, after all. And if he will insist on walking everywhere...