Diary: What's the score, Barry?

Click to follow

Among the late John Barry's Swinging London chums was Michael Caine, who enjoyed a brief, rent-free sojourn at the composer's home at the height of the 1960s. Barry had written the score for one Caine hit, Zulu, and was due to write another for The Ipcress File. But Caine hadn't reckoned with his host's nocturnal work habits. "One night I got no sleep at all as, over and over again for hours on end, right until dawn, he worked on the one same tune," Caine recalled in his memoir, What's It All About? "I slept for short periods during the night and finally woke up with a start when the music stopped. I had grown so used to the noise that the silence had disturbed me. I went out into the living room and found him slumped, exhausted, over the piano. He had obviously finally finished the one tune that he had been slaving on all night. I made him some coffee and he played it for me as the sun came up and warmed the room. Not only was I the first person to hear this tune, I'd heard it and heard it all night long. 'What's it called?', I asked him when he finished playing. 'It's Goldfinger,' he replied – and fell fast asleep at the piano."

* This column lately bemoaned the absence of Jeremy Paxman, the BBC's own Lion in Winter, from Newsnight during January. The official line is that Paxman, now 60, was filming a historical documentary. But might he also have acquired a taste for retirement? In the past week, he has enraged the letter writers of Tunbridge Wells with his flagrant mispronunciation of the word "cuts" during a live broadcast. And yesterday he dispatched what he insisted was the last of the late-night news digest's daily emails, on the basis that they were "crap". "The time has come," Paxman informed his readers, "to put this exercise in fatuousness out of its misery." Do not go gentle into that good night, Jeremy. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

* Almost everyone besides the preternaturally pleased-with-himself Piers Morgan will have been surprised to see who the smug one's guest was on Monday. Carrying eye-bags worthy of Louis Vuitton, the former prime minister Tony Blair had wearily submitted to Morgan's interview request, despite having described his inquisitor as a "slug" while in No 10. How Mr Blair's appearance went down at home is anyone's guess: Cherie always made it abundantly clear that she loathed the ex-Mirror editor. Her half-sister Lauren was too busy reading the gripping final chapters of the Koran, but there was, as ever, one Booth willing to comment on the matter: that other Tony, Cherie's father. "I suppose when you're trying to bring peace to the Middle East, you have to meet all sorts of objectionable people," Tony (Booth) told me. "But I think I'd rather sit in a room with a bunch of Hamas extremists and die-hard Zionists than sit down to be asked questions by Piers Morgan." Doubtless Cherie concurs.

* Previously overlooked, this romantic scene from Andrew Roberts' last Tatler column. The right-leaning historian was in Dallas, he explains, "to chat to George W Bush about his superb memoirs... As we were photographed together afterwards and he put his arm around my waist, I, ever-respectful of the office of the ex-president, put my arm around his. While any normal 64-year-old would be forgiven for having a bit of extra flesh, he just had the lean muscles of a fit man 20 years his junior. I complimented him on it, and he said: 'Well Andrew, that's what happens when you quit drinking and take exercise.'" Andrew wished he could stay here forever, just wallowing in the scent of the great man's cologne. "I love you," he whispered softly – but George was gone, distracted by a passing plate of pretzels.

* The final hours of the January transfer window were troubling to Labour's Alan Keen MP, chair of the All Party Group on Football, who thought Monday's transactions "ludicrous". Newcastle, he tells me, "got far too much for Andy Carroll, because Liverpool were desperate at the deadline". Keen takes a particular interest in Newcastle's fortunes: he spent 18 years as a part-time scout for their north-eastern rivals Middlesbrough. Actually, he assures me, the two clubs' supporters get on just fine – but "both of them hate Sunderland supporters". More bad news for Miliband (D).