The Feral Beast: Auntie's bedside manner

Prowling on the tramlines
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The Independent Online

Nelson Mandela's spell in hospital has had the world on tenterhooks. But it has also left the BBC looking rather silly. For I can disclose that the corporation dispatched no fewer than 40 journalists to hang around outside his hospital, most of whom have now come home. The 94-year-old peace pin-up was admitted to intensive care on 8 June for a recurring lung infection, making it his fourth hospital visit since December. After a fortnight's waiting, I gather the ghoulish gang of BBC hacks have now packed up their kit and returned, scoop-free. A BBC spokesman explains the thinking: "Nelson Mandela's current hospital stay has been of considerable interest to our audiences both at home and across the globe," she says. "In response to the emergency hospitalisation, we sent an additional team of approximately 40 people from domestic news, including technical staff, to reinforce our South Africa bureau. The vast majority have now returned to the UK." With a suitably vast bill to the licence-fee payer!

Gourmet Goga

Goga Ashkenazi has elevated herself from Kazakh socialite to fashion designer, after buying French fashion house Vionnet last year. Previously best known for, er, being a friend of Prince Andrew, could she now find fame for her eccentric eating habits? Over lunch with the Financial Times, she reveals she likes nothing more than a McDonald's, served in a particular way. "I always have a Big Mac, a cheeseburger, chicken nuggets," she divulges. "I throw away the buns – I will leave one but not, like, all three. I eat with cutlery because otherwise you get very greasy. But when people see me, and I'm not big, they say, 'You're seriously going to eat that?' And I go, like, 'Watch me.'" So, what did she eat during the interview? Watercress soup with caviar, £32, and Dover sole, £44. Well, the FT was paying.

Zulu war

Terence Stamp feels aggrieved that his former flatmate Michael Caine dumped him the minute his career took off in the 1960s. "As soon as he got his break, in Zulu, he wanted to be on his own," Stamp sniffs. "It was a shock for me because I'd imagined us in harness, taking on showbiz together, but it was his choice." But is Stamp suffering from false memory syndrome? In his autobiography, Caine remembers it quite differently. "The scene was incredibly fast-moving," he writes. "By the time I'd finished Zulu and got back to London with some money in my pocket, Terry was in love with Julie Christie... it was all change partners once again." So it was Stamp who dumped Caine. Ah yes, I remember it well.

Prix fixe

There was much ooh-la-la-ing when David Beckham joined Paris Saint-Germain, and moved into the super-swanky Bristol Hotel. The rate for his "Imperial" suite was a princely €17,000, (£14,400), though the club would stretch to a monthly accommodation allowance of only €30,000. Now it transpires that managers at Le Bristol have been so delighted with all the free publicity he generated that they have charged him a mere €2,000 a night. Was it wise to make this public? Now all the slebs will want a réduction.

Snow business

Rising Tory star Kwasi Kwarteng put in a brave appearance at the launch of a book about cocaine. Happily for his career, wine was the strongest stimulant on offer. Author Natalia Naish was keen to stress the book does not glamorise the drug, but her co-author, Jeremy Scott, admitted to having intimate experience of his subject.

"I did 16 years' intensive unpaid research for the book," said the former adman. "I took up cocaine to improve my skiing. I was living in the foothills of the Alps, and it was a fairly up-and-down existence. I did so much research it gave me a heart attack and required five hours of surgery. So clearly cocaine is bad for you. But boy, does it do something for your skiing."

Narky Saatchi

Pictures of Charles Saatchi grabbing Nigella Lawson's neck were deeply disturbing. But should we be surprised? It's not the first time the millionaire art dealer has expressed a surprising attitude towards women. In a column last year, he wrote in praise of the "brank", a medieval piece of equipment for silencing nagging wives. "Today, it would probably be considered inappropriate by health and safety officials," he lamented. Previously, he has scolded Nigella for her choice of clothes. He once told her off for wearing a Vivienne Westwood dress with a showy cleavage, and made her sew on a piece of black chiffon to cover up. Perhaps most insultingly, he even doesn't like her food, as she once told a magazine: "I made Charles a prawn dansak, which I love, and he ate it all and then said, 'That was horrible.' I said, 'Why did you eat it all? You needn't have to.' He said, 'I was being polite but then I panicked that you'd cook it again.' Charles doesn't really like proper food – he prefers a bowl of cereal." All knockabout banter, no doubt.

Andy's smash

All eyes are, once more, on Andy Murray as he embarks on his ninth Wimbledon. No doubt hoping this year will be the one, the BBC has commissioned an in-depth profile of the player, to air tonight. It has the faintly ludicrous title Andy Murray: The Man Behind the Racquet, and the roster of talking heads includes, improbably, Kevin Spacey and Anna Wintour. And what do we learn of the boy wonder? That he has quite a temper on him. No, really. So much so that he was once known as Bam Bam, after the Flintstones baby who had a penchant for bashing things. "I used to just get so angry," Murray admits. "I'd just be bashing things around." Who would have thought?

Eddie does it

The highlight of the Queen's recent visit to the BBC was her demolishing of John Humphrys. When he observed that Prince Philip "was looking well yesterday", Her Majesty said, witheringly, "That's because he's not ill." One wonders whether Eddie Mair, tipped for great things, would have fared any better had he met her. Writing in the Radio Times, the PM host says he didn't get to meet the Queen because he failed a security check, "despite practising my curtsy in the mirror for hours". "A long-forgotten Asbo turned up during my Palace security check and I was politely informed I could watch it all on the telly at home," he writes. He is, I'm informed, pulling our leg, but given his controversial monstering of Boris Johnson, perhaps he is safer at home.

St Joanna appears in the garden

We've often suspected Joanna Lumley of being a saint, not least for her campaign to save the Gurkhas. Now there's proof. The one-time Bond girl was at Grange Park Opera the other day for Les Dialogues des Carmélites, Poulenc's tale of suicidal nuns. Her husband, Stephen Barlow, who was conducting, popped out in the dinner interval to say hello. And lo, according to my man in the rose bush, he crossed himself as he neared Her Holiness: "It's possible he was reprising the last scene in Act One, but it was definitely a sign of the cross." Ministers, take note.