The Feral Beast (7 July 2013)

On sexist rants, Kate's long-lost cousin, Thatcher's luck, Lendl's mum – and coffee enemas

Whatever happens on Centre Court today, one thing is certain: Andy Murray's game has vastly improved thanks to Ivan Lendl. The Czech former No 1 is credited with boosting Murray's confidence. But many had doubts the partnership would work when it was announced in 2011. Lendl was not thought to be a good communicator, and Murray had already had half a dozen coaches. Now the American tennis writer Michael Mewshaw reveals his theory behind it. "Lendl, like Murray, had a high-maintenance mother who got him started in tennis, but whom he needed to escape to reach his full potential," he tells me. "Lendl's mother had been a nationally ranked competitor whose career was cut short by Ivan's birth. She took Ivan to her practice sessions and tied the toddler to the net post. Later, as she coached him, their relationship remained so fraught that he tanked the matches they played and couldn't beat her until he was 15." Mewshaw, author of the acclaimed tennis book Short Circuit, adds that they also share a warped sense of humour. "Lendl has always been fond of jokes," he says, "but this went largely unreported because they were often aimed at journalists."

Correct use of the colon

Michael Gove has issued a reading list to civil servants at the Department for Education. He wants them to read the novels of Evelyn Waugh and Jane Austen to improve their writing style. Among his non-fiction recommendations is Gwynne's Grammar, by Old Etonian educationalist Nevile Gwynne. Gwynne is a colourful character: as well as championing the teaching of logic and handwriting, he is an enthusiastic advocate of the coffee enema. Evangelising on the effectiveness of this particular form of colonic irrigation at a London drinks party, he once enacted a partial demonstration. Never mind grammar – surely coffee enemas are what Whitehall's congested corridors need.

Lessons in busking it

Hats off to Libby Purves, who has been hosting Radio 4's Midweek for an astonishing 30 years. Ever the pro, she was unfazed when her star guest failed to turn up for the live talk-show on Wednesday. Busker James Bowen, who shot to fame after rescuing a cat, Bob, and writing a book about it, got stuck in traffic. Purves gamely carried on, processing her other three guests until James finally arrived, minutes before the end. It's not the first time a guest has nearly missed the show.

Another recent guest tells me her taxi drove to the wrong address, and she had no phone number to call. Should the BBC change firms? A spokesman says: "We use 15 or 20 companies, and from that list, the cheapest or quickest is chosen, depending on the job." One cab driver whispers that the BBC pays a couple of pounds less than other contractors, which will please those who attack the Beeb for profligacy. We've come a long way since the days of executives keeping the meters running over lunch. But are they going too far the other way?

Family secrets

The Duchess of Cambridge's baby will inherit the throne, whatever its gender. But female members of the aristocracy are still fighting for their right to accede. Among those is the author Lady Lucinda Lambton, locked in a legal row with her younger brother, the Earl of Durham, over an inheritance. Now, in a curious twist, it emerges the Lambtons are distant cousins of Kate through her mother's side, who came from the North-east. Much has been made of Kate's ancestry, which features miners and carpenters. But evidence has surfaced that her mother, Carole, is a direct descendant of Sir Thomas Conyers, who married a Lambton and had three daughters. The connection was made by Robert Innes-Smith, a former editor of Scottish Tatler. "They were flat broke, " he says. "Thomas met his wife in the Chester-le-Street workhouse."

Behind the scenes

The widow of the playwright Simon Gray, Victoria Rothschild, was among guests at the Faber summer party, who included Sir Tom Stoppard and the actress Fiona Shaw. To commemorate her husband's death, Mrs Gray has set up a literary charity called Give a Book, which does what its name suggests. Much chatter was about the shock literary story of the week – the dramatic toppling of Gail Rebuck and Victoria Barnsley as heads of Random House and HarperCollins respectively. Others had SW19 on their mind: Rothschild recalled watching Ivan Lendl play at Wimbledon in the 1980s. "He was a fantastic player," she recalls. "He had such a great bum."

Bit late for a recount

Karie Murphy, the woman at the centre of Labour's candidate-selection scandal, once posted a picture of Margaret Thatcher on Facebook and wrote: "Having a party when she dies." But she may have more in common with the Iron Lady than she thinks. When Thatcher's official biography was published recently, few people picked up on the extraordinary claim that she was originally selected for her seat thanks to a nifty-fingered local party official. Officially, Thatcher became parliamentary candidate for Finchley after beating Thomas Langton by 46 votes to 43. But Charles Moore's book features quotes from Bertie Blatch, the association's chairman, who said: "She didn't actually win. The man did, but I thought, 'He's got a silver spoon in his mouth. He'll get another seat.' So I 'lost' two of his votes and gave them to her." Moore goes on to write: "Thatcher probably (unknowingly) won her way to Parliament through fraud." How different life might have been.

Gentlemen of the court

Some raising of eyebrows over the BBC's Wimbledon commentary. Reporting on Murray's semi-final against Jerzy Janowicz, one unnamed live blogger wrote: "I'd imagine Janowicz is a fine lover – a big, bear of a man but with the hands of a miniature portrait painter." Blimey! Still, enthusiasm is preferable to sexism. During Five Live's coverage of yesterday's ladies' final, John Inverdale displayed his usual charm. "D'you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little 'you're never going to be a looker'?" he is reported to have said. His remark was, no doubt, taken out of context, but the facts speak for themselves. Bartoli is a Wimbledon champion. Inverdale once captained a tennis team for the University of Southampton.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before