The Feral Beast: Ernest's cats' face lockdown

Going out with a bang

Ernest Hemingway was well-known for his love of cats, in particular Snowball, who had six toes. But now the writer's animals are causing headaches for the Ernest Hemingway Museum in Key West, Florida. A court has ruled that because there are now 44 of Snowball's descendants living in and around his former home, some boasting a full 24 toes, the museum is technically a zoo. The decision is the result of a nine-year legal battle, and means that, to comply with legislation, attendants will now have to put all the cats into individual cages at night, build a higher perimeter fence, and hire a warden to patrol them. Currently, the cats are simply fed by volunteer attendants, and provide a charming living link with the Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Snowball, a polydactyl white cat, was a gift to Hemingway from a ship's captain, and obviously had a lot of kittens.

Cherie to curtsey to Queen

Something to look forward to in 2013: the sight of Cherie Blair collecting her CBE from the Queen. Cherie had a frosty relationship with HM during the Blairs' years in Downing Street. According to one biography, she refused to curtsey to the Queen in private, and Alastair Campbell has claimed that relations got off to a bad start during an early visit to Balmoral. Cherie has denied this, and recently wrote to a newspaper insisting she had not meant to snub the Queen by missing a lunch. The Blairs were not invited to Prince William's wedding, apparently because the royal family felt Tony had disclosed too much in his book. Now, relations appear to be thawing, as Cherie is to accept a CBE for services to "women's issues and charity". Meanwhile, Tony has yet to accept any gongs, and told a press lunch that he had refused a place in the Lords, as he wants to keep his options open for something more effective. Watch out!

Arise Sir Magnus (almost)

Three cheers for Magnus Linklater, former editor of The Scotsman, who was appointed CBE in the New Year Honours. He received the award for his contribution to the arts and to journalism in Scotland. Some readers may be puzzled by this news, as I recently referred to him as Sir Magnus when I reported he was downsizing his Edinburgh townhouse for a more modest apartment. Still, I'm told the idea of being a knight did not displease him, and no doubt it gave Whitehall the idea to make a start with the CBE. We're here to help!

Dame Ann bangs heads

Journalist Ann Leslie is already a Dame, otherwise we'd be recommending her for a gong. As guest editor of the Today programme yesterday, she had the brilliant idea of setting up two of its biggest interviewers in a debate over the existence of God. In the "no" corner was John Humphrys, while in the "yes" camp was Roman Catholic Edward Stourton, technically no longer a Today presenter. Early points were scored by Stourton, who made the argument that having seen evil in war zones, its opposite must exist. But Humphrys was clearly winning towards the end, and left Stourton lost for an answer when he asked: "what is God doing when he gives us children dying of starvation?" In the end Leslie had to break it up, saying "if God exists, he'll have both of you up there, because it's so entertaining having you both on a cloud giving what for." If only Dame Ann could run Today every day.

Biopic gets a starry drubbing

Julian Lloyd Webber has joined the chorus of those attacking the BBC over last week's Alfred Hitchcock biopic, The Girl. Doris Day and Kim Novak, who were both directed by him, say Tippi Hedren's depiction of him as a lecherous and sadistic sexual predator was unrecognisable. Now, the cellist Lloyd Webber has written to the Telegraph to say that watching the film "reminds me of the hatchet job that was executed on Jacqueline du Pré in a film unworthy of mention. How easy it is to malign those who can't answer back." The film he refers to was Hilary and Jackie, which made extraordinary claims about the sisters' relationship with the conductor Daniel Barenboim. Indeed, Hilary and Jackie was originally developed by BBC Films, but they dropped the project because of opposition by Barenboim, and it was later funded by Channel 4. But the film's success prompted BBC Films to relax its guidelines on making unflattering biopics. Still, as we now know, Jimmy Savile remained off limits.

Still schtum on the size issue

Happy birthday to Marianne Faithfull who turned 66 yesterday (or 65, depending which sources you consult). She may be well into her bus-pass years, but the former singer still faces embarrassing questions about the past. Q magazine has given their readers the chance to ask Marianne their questions, and quite a fruity lot they are! Alistair Bainbridge from Leatherhead is (inexplicably) interested in the size of Mick Jagger's genitalia, and writes: "The best-known moment in Keith Richards' autobiography is his assertion that Mick Jagger has "enormous balls" and a "tiny todger". Can you verify this – or not – once and for all?" Disappointingly, Marianne refuses to be drawn on dimensions but gives a political masterclass on how to avoid the question.

Memories of Mystic Mogg

William Rees-Mogg was no fan of gossip, which made it rather difficult for diary writers on The Times to know how to fill their columns when he was editor. Still, the Beast takes its hat off to the late great Mystic Mogg, so-called because of his somewhat flawed predictions, who died yesterday aged 84. Harold Evans recalls Rees-Mogg telling him "we can't see round corners", when he lured him to The Sunday Times, but he did go on to make some howlingly wrong predictions in his political columns. So much so that he earned possibly the greatest flattery of modern journalism: a parody by Craig Brown. "It is fair, in my opinion, to say that Michael Jackson – one of the Indiana Jacksons – will soon get over this latest setback top his career," went Rees-Mogg's imagined diary entry. "He has never allowed himself to be the victim of trauma or neurosis. He is, by all accounts, a robust and healthy young man, with a pleasingly straightforward outlook on life. It seems clear to me that, despite his reported death, he has rarely been in better shape." We'll miss you, Mogg.

Tomorrow's Today today

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah will guest edit tomorrow's Today programme, and has been giving interviews to promote the occasion. But is all the attention going to his head? Asked in the new issue of Condé Nast Traveller, "Who is the most interesting person you've met on your travels?", he replies "Myself, and Will Self". Meanwhile, he told yesterday's Telegraph about his life being single, since his wife left him 12 years ago. "Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a wife or girlfriend, but then I wonder how I would fit one in – I hardly even have time for a shower." Ego ahoy!

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