Apart from the odd lard-chomping American telling him just where he could put his recent healthy eating campaign, Jamie Oliver's culinary empire has continued to expand with little trouble. Yet I hear Oliver could have his work cut out convincing some potentially troublesome natives in St Albans, where he's just bought The Bell pub – nostalgically renowned among local romantics, I'm told, for its trademark aroma of "stale lager and cheap perfume".
His spokesman confirms that Jamie intends to convert the said boozer into a "poncy" Italian restaurant (OK, not his precise words). The news has prompted a call to arms among members of the Campaign For Real Ale, whose HQ is located in the Hertfordshire town.
"Obviously we want Jamie to be offering some decent real ales," surprisingly insists their chief executive, Mike Bennett, who seemed none too impressed when I innocently name-checked one popular brand of Italian lager. Step back Oliver, these are the big boys you're dealing with now!
* Compared to the timid public hostilities being offered by the Labour leadership contest, the sight of Boris Johnson trading blows with Ken Livingstone for a second time would surely satisfy voters' bloodlust a whole lot more. Should Ken's bid for a Boris rematch at the next London mayoral election come to fruition (he still has to overcome the challenge of Labour rival Oona King) you can rest assured he'll quickly have to contend with the unwelcome attentions of one meticulous assassin back on his tail. Few did more to bring down the court of King Ken than Andrew Gilligan, the former BBC journalist who, after coming to prominence for lifting the lid on the Iraq "dodgy dossier" enjoyed a subsequent spell at the London Evening Standard, where he pursued the then Mayor Livingstone with Cromwellian-style vigour. Having finally seen his man put to the sword in 2008, Gilligan, now with The Daily Telegraph, is predictably far from happy to see the old boy rising from the dead. Should Labour members give Ken the nod, prepare for a whole spate of "Red Ken Ate My Hamster" headlines coming your way soon.
* Sarah Brown was one very proud Mrs Brown yesterday when she announced on Twitter that it was her 10th wedding anniversary. "Love my husband more than ever," she declared. Among those keen to offer congratulations were Lord and Lady Prescott, Gordon's clumsy old henchman Charlie Whelan, and the Radio 1 DJ Fearne Cotton. Notably absent with their good wishes were the Labour leadership contenders – despite the fact you can't move on Twitter without one of them popping up to say "Hi!" every other minute. Ed Balls, who has distanced himself from Gordon of late, was rumoured to be "too busy" romancing Mrs Balls in their holiday camper van.
* Mark Twain once pointed out that reports of his death had been an "exaggeration". The comedian Bill Cosby is taking a dimmer view following a bogus online whispering campaign claiming he's gone to that great Cosby Show in the sky. Should Bill require moral support, I suggest a call to our very own Sir Cliff Richard, whose "death" is routinely announced at Glastonbury every year. Cliff rises above such tomfoolery with what I can only call trademark professionalism.
* Ever since he had the temerity to plug in an electric guitar in front of Judas-howling Mancunian folkies over 40 years ago, Bob Dylan's performances have divided even his most devoted followers. While long-serving music journalist Allan Jones, these days editor of Uncut magazine, has seen enough of Ol' Bob to know to expect the unexpected, newer converts to the Dylan faith can still struggle. Jones recounts recently sharing a taxi with two northern youngsters who had travelled to see their hero for the first time at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent. They were, says Jones, unhappy to discover that Dylan wasn't quite the fresh-faced folk purist they had hoped for. "They hadn't been expecting to see him with a band," Jones explains. "It fell to me to tell them that Bob actually went electric in 1965, around 25 years before they were probably born. They looked so crestfallen and vaguely betrayed."Reuse content