A controversial installation by the artist Julian Opie has got the bods at English Heritage all of a twitter. Westminster Council will decide on Tuesday whether to allow a light display alongside Hungerford Bridge that would beam images of commuters trudging up and down its side. The work has been three years in the planning, but English Heritage have recommended councillors refuse permission, citing fears about the effect it would have on views of the Houses of Parliament. They also object to a proposed illuminated sponsor's panel. Opie, a leading BritArt sculptor whose brightly coloured portraits of Blur grace the cover of the band's eponymous album from 2000, disputes the concerns. "We're not actually covering up anything," he points out. "One would hope that a sculpture like this would add to the interest of the area, not be detrimental." He has even made a last-minute amendment to the application, switching it from the east side to the west side of the bridge to avoid ruining the view of Parliament. But will it be enough?
Tony and Cherie Blair are not known for their love of classical music but they did attend an extraordinary concert featuring 100 pianos at the Royal Festival Hall in 2011. Also in their box was Wendi Deng, whose marriage to Rupert Murdoch is soon to end. Wendi, as it happens, is a big classical music fan, especially of the Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who organised the concert. Much has been made of Wendi's networking skills and ambition, and of her impressive kung fu chop. Now a shred of evidence has come to light suggesting she may also have a sense of humour. Arianna Huffington relates how, at a launch they co-hosted for Kathy Freston's diet book The Lean, Wendi wittily expressed her disappointment at the vegan canapés. "I grew up so poor in China that one day I aspired to have meat regularly," she is reported to have said. "Now that I can have meat three times a day, Kathy tells us we can't have any meat at all." Well, it was probably funny at the time.
Exeter University's £48m Forum was among the 52 winners of this year's Royal Institute of British Architects' awards, announced on Thursday. The judges praised its "fluid spruce gridshell roof" and said the building gave "a strong message that this university has finally arrived". Which is all very well, but what about the books? Where once there was a Blackwell's shop selling actual books, there's now a customer service desk and a few computers. Writers including Bel Mooney and Philip Hensher, who used to teach English at Exeter, have highlighted the bizarre situation, calling it "a nightmare" and "unbearable". Hensher was so "ashamed" of the university that he has now left to teach at Bath Spa. Still, if the architects say it works, they know best!
Going once ...
Auctioneers selling Princess Diana's Audi convertible later this month say they have been inundated with enquiries from around the world, and particularly from America. "We have put a guide price of between £20,000 and £25,000 but we have no idea what it will go for," says a Coys spokesman. Diana and the princes were frequently photographed in the car during the 1990s and her sons have since favoured the marque. For some reason, there wasn't quite so much excitement about yesterday's sale at Bonhams of Sarah Ferguson's car from that period, a Jaguar XJS V12 convertible. It fetched a mere £13,800.
Lord Hanningfield served eight weeks of a nine-month jail sentence for fiddling his parliamentary expenses back in 2011. But now Essex County Council, of which he was leader, has written to him asking for repayment of the £50,000 he spent on its credit cards as part of the £287,000 bill he racked up between 2005 and 2010. Tomorrow he will be on television, speaking about what the council considers excessive spending, as part of a Dispatches investigation into council profligacy. As it happens, he probably is in a position to repay some of the cash. Since leaving prison, he has not spoken in the Lords or asked a single question. But he has turned up most days, collecting the £300-a-day attendance allowance, which in January amounted to £4,800 plus £425 travel costs. Essex Council has sent him an invoice and awaits his response. The Lib Dem leader of ECC, Mike Mackrory, says: "It's a shocking abuse of trust by someone who should have known better." Still time to write a cheque ....
The hapless seaman responsible for the royal barge Gloriana dashing herself against Kew Bridge on Friday got off lightly. Mark Edwards, who built the boat used for the Queen's Jubilee Pageant, said the damage was little more than "a ping-pong ball-sized hole". But if the skipper ever comes before the Queen, he shouldn't expect an easy ride. When one naval captain after a similar prang cheerfully introduced himself to Her Majesty as "the skipper who scuppered his ship", she fixed him with a steely stare and countered: "Whooose ship …?"
Are the Barclay brothers beginning to chill out? The fortress-dwelling newspaper magnates were once highly sensitive to criticism, but have now allowed one of their publications to upload a vast cache of articles, some of which are not all that simpatico towards them. The Spectator has achieved the extraordinary feat of scanning and uploading onto its website its entire archive going back to 1828. Readers can now look up Stephen Glover's old Media Studies column, which once described the Barclays as "secretive to the point of eccentricity and possibly beyond". Andrew Neil, now chief executive of the weekly mag, also comes in for repeated attacks. All credit to him for giving the ambitious project the go-ahead.
One of Dame Maggie Smith's finest put-downs was her dismissal of Ivor Novello tinkling the piano in the 2002 film Gosford Park. The debonair composer is playing his wartime song Keep the Home Fires Burning when Smith's character tells the drawing room not to clap as "it will only encourage him". Now, biographer Richard Evans has unearthed an anecdote about how Novello once went tonto at Sir Basil Clarke, the celebrated war correspondent, for nearly stealing the tune. Clarke had overheard Novello playing it and, being an accomplished musician, found a piano and rattled it out himself. The composer came thundering over and ordered him to stop. Clarke had no idea who this angry man was until a few weeks later when Novello's song took the country by storm. An early case of copyright protection?
Shane and Liz get the burgers in
Liz Hurley has submitted plans to spruce up her new home, the 13-bedroom Donnington Hall in Herefordshire. She wants to replace a tatty conservatory with a smart orangery, and also hopes to refurbish the interiors and add a few en-suites. Hurley bought the £6m pile last year with her improbable boyfriend, Shane Warne. Heritage body the Georgian Group is among those keeping a close eye on plans, perhaps mindful of Shane's exotic new taste in fashion. Looking at the planning application, I noticed a giant new barbecue parked up by the back door. Good to know he hasn't changed much.