The Feral Beast: Cecilia pins her hopes on the Pope
Sunday 24 March 2013
A new pontiff always brings hope. But Pope Francis comes with especially high expectations, at least in the world of music. The opera singer Cecilia Bartoli says she believes there is a stash of forgotten Monteverdi manuscripts in the Vatican library, which could include musical scores. Pope Francis is said to be an enthusiast of classical music, in particular of opera.
So the question is – will he now open his library to scholars? Bartoli made her discovery while researching a recent album; she says that many of the Baroque composer's documents were taken to the Vatican on his death.
"But it is not easy to get access," she says. "You need the right connections and as yet I don't have them." Bartoli's relations with the Vatican hit a bum note last year, when she cancelled a concert for Pope Benedict. It seems she took umbrage after being asked her opinion on abortion. No doubt soothing Bartoli's brow will be high up Francis's to-do list.
All change for Justin Welby, who starts a new life as Archbishop of Canterbury. Gone are the playing fields of Eton and the long lunches as a Paris oil executive. Everyone should be allowed to reinvent themselves, but has he quite finished pupating?
In an interview last weekend, he said, "I never listen to Thought for the Day." Now, he is due to present the God slot on Good Friday. So which Welby should his sheep follow – the one preaching on Radio 4, or the one who says it's not worth listening to?
No doubt Nigel Lawson will have had some sympathy for George Osborne over last week's Budget leak. In the 1980s, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Guardian obtained details of his Budget three weeks early. Lawson was so rattled that he ordered a mandarin to tell the governor of the Bank of England that he planned to bring Budget Day forward.
Eddie George, the future governor, was then a deputy at the bank, and went straight round to Lawson's office. Before Lawson could say anything, George said he had heard there had been a leak, and stated in the firmest of tones that the best possible course of action would be to do nothing, keep calm, and stick to the planned date. Lawson nodded sagely, saying, "Thank you, that is precisely what I intend to do."
The Guardian ran the story and was proved almost entirely right. But no adverse effects were felt, and it went down as a lesson in keeping calm and carrying on.
Tony Blair spends much of his time waving from aeroplane steps, but is he getting nostalgic for the old Trimdon days? My man in the Black Bull says the ex-PM has been getting involved with local affairs in County Durham again.
Earlier this month, the Blairs attended the packed funeral of Father John Caden, Sedgefield's much-loved Roman Catholic priest, who baptised all four Blair children. Now, he and Cherie have promised to match any money raised to create a stained glass window in memory of Lily Burton, former organist at St Mary Magdalene's, who was married to Blair's agent John. It has also emerged that a plaque is to be erected outside the church, commemorating it as the spot where Blair made his infamous "People's Princess" speech on the day Diana, Princess of Wales, died.
The Blairs sold their constituency home Myrobella in 2009, but maybe that was a mistake. After all, how many communities hold the Blairs in such affection?
Claire Perry, the brilliant Tory MP and heiress to Mary Whitehouse as guardian of public morality, has split from her husband of 17 years. In a statement, the member for Devizes said she and the banker Clayton Perry had drifted apart.
Sad, but the timing is curious. When I interviewed her a few weeks ago, I asked about a rumour that she was involved in an affair. "Oh my God! Who's the lucky man?" she shrieked. "No, I am not embarking on an affair with another politician. Good God no. A middle-aged woman like me? Who would have the time? This is absolutely not true. It's a fantastic story though. God, amazing. I'm thrilled that people might think I've still got it in me." So that's clear then.
Still, Perry, 48, is a graduate of Harvard Business School, where students are taught to speak with conviction at all times. "Even if you believe something 55 per cent, say it as if you believe it a 100 per cent," says the handbook.
Party monster Nicky Haslam has trained Arabian horses and designed interiors for leading glamour figures. But his latest incarnation is as a food writer. He tells me he is poised to publish a book of recipes, accumulated from a life of travelling and cooking. The book follows the success of his recent autobiography, Redeeming Features, which revealed his brief affair with Antony Armstrong- Jones, who went on to marry Princess Margaret. On Thursday, Haslam gave a party for 500 of his closest friends, to launch Folly de Grandeur, a book about his Hampshire retreat. He told me he eventually plans to publish his scrap books and correspondence. But the recipe book won't be a Jamie Oliver number. "There won't be any pictures," he says. "Just illustrations and recipes. We've had enough photos of food, haven't we?"
Tracey Emin's work has always been about the statement more than the substance. Now she has flogged a piece that doesn't even exist yet. Emin was among celebrity artists who donated an item to the Terrence Higgins Trust's fund-raising auction on Thursday. But when her painting of a blue heart with the words "Now is for You" fetched only £8,000, Emin marched on to the stage. "I thought to myself before the auction that, if the piece sold for less than £10,000, I would do something else," she announced. So she offered to make one of her neon signs to order. Bidding rocketed to £58,000, and was won by American businessman Todd Ruppert. Tracey's generosity helped raised £375,000 for the charity, but leads to a perplexing conclusion: the artist's prospective works are worth more than the ones that buyers can see.
Westminster School is advertising for a new headmaster – but stresses that men or women can apply. The academic hothouse that produced Nick Clegg and Helena Bonham Carter is seeking a replacement for Dr Stephen Spurr, who retires next summer.
The school has never had a female head, even though girls have been admitted since 1967. Prominent alumni include Ruth Kelly, the Roman Catholic ex-education secretary, who now works for HSBC. A religious brainbox specialising in education and money – wouldn't she be ideal?
Case of the Clueless Tory MP
Penny Mordaunt, tipped for big things when she became a Tory MP in 2010, has missed a trick. For I learn that everyone's favourite TV sleuth, Angela Lansbury, is her grandmother's cousin. Mordaunt popped up in the Budget debate to reveal she was descended from the first Labour chancellor, Philip Snowden.
If Mordaunt had said she was related to the TV character Jessica Fletcher just think how popular she'd be. She could use the tagline Mordaunt, She Wrote. Gosh, do we have to do her publicity for her?
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