The Feral Beast: 'Flanders mare' has bolted

It's grrrreat!
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The Independent Online

The problem with Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII, is reputed to have been that she did not look like the portrait that was sent ahead to stir the king's libido. Henry saw her in the flesh, did not like her, took a second look, and remarked: "I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse," before packing her off to live the life of a spinster in Hever Castle, not far from Dartford, in Kent.

Now, 473 years later, Kent police are hunting for her near-namesake Anna Cleves, supposedly standing in Thursday's county council elections as a candidate for the right-wing English Democrats. She is registered as living at Elm House, Oakfield Road, Dartford. Curiously, there is no such address; but the English Democrats party leader, Steve Uncles, lives in Oakfield Road in a property once called Elm House. No one named Anna Cleves lives there. Her nomination paper, was signed by "Adam West", which is the name of the actor who played Batman. It was dated 1 April. "I think this is a sting," Mr Uncles told the Kent Messenger.

Sweeney pops

A footnote to the highly publicised spat between the BBC and the London School of Economics over the broadcaster's use of an LSE field trip as cover to shoot a documentary in North Korea. John Sweeney, the reporter who risked a long spell in the gulag in the line of duty, is urging everyone he knows to listen to a track called "North Korea Undercover" by the electropop band ooberfuse (sic). The song is inspired by Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born to a forced marriage between prisoners in a North Korean slave-labour camp, saw his mother and brother publicly executed and who later, uniquely, escaped. What seems to have particularly chuffed Sweeney is that ooberfuses's singer, Cherrie Anderson, is an alumna of the LSE.

String theory

With another Eurovision Song Contest barely two weeks away, Sandie Shaw, who won the contest in 1967 with "Puppet on a String" was asked by Saga magazine to compare the competition then and now. "Crap both times," was her succinct response.


Congratulations to Monocle magazine on the first Monocle baby, which is expected to be born in about three weeks. Monocle staff are to become surrogate parents after a mallard's egg was left on the doorstep of their offices on Friday having been abandoned by its parents. The new addition was kept warm in a nest hastily contructed on the desk of the foreign editor but now they've "swaddled him in bubble wrap and posted him to our egg-hatching expert in Cambridgeshire", according to a source. Monocle's foreign editor (and resident wildlife expert), Steve Bloomfield, who rescued the egg, says: "We're hoping he'll be back in time as a duckling for the Monocle Summer Fayre on 16 and 17 June. And if it doesn't work out we can always serve him up at our new café."

Runaway hit

It's harder and harder to get a book deal these days unless you're a reality TV star, a footballer or an expert in S&M. Alexandra Heminsley, a former publisher, launched her second book last week after selling it in a six-way auction to Hutchinson. Running Like a Girl is about how to achieve the mindset of a runner and the author wore all of her running medals to the launch. So how did she manage to sell the concept? "Promising to run five marathons in order to get a book deal is a bit extreme," she confided, "but it worked."

End of the peer

One little-noticed reform introduced in the House of Lords a couple of years ago allows members to "retire". It does not mean much, because a peerage is for life and there is no requirement on ageing peers to turn up anyway. Some are not seen in the building for years, and then a message arrives to say they have died. But it is now possible for a peer to announce formally that he has had enough and will not be back again. Almost none do, but last week, Field Marshal Edwin Bramall, the last man left in Parliament to have seen action on the Normandy beaches, quietly called it a day. He will be 90 in December.

Ding dong

"A successful diary column should be whimsical and amusing rather than just plain nasty," wrote the blogger Iain Dale in a long item on the Conservative Home website provoked by a question posed in this column, by Matthew Bell, which asked why Mr Dale was able to get into the crypt where Margaret Thatcher was lying in state, when access was restricted to MPs and parliamentary staff. A "snide little piece", is how Dale described it, written by "a little pipsqueak" named "Matthew Bell-end". Very whimsical.

Hair, hair!

In the spirit of hard-hitting journalists asking politicians personal questions about their looks – as Jeremy Paxman did to get his scoop about Louise Mensch's facelift last week – the Beast has got on the case. We want to know whether George Osborne has started dyeing his hair. On the BBC's News at Ten on Thursday, the Chancellor was sporting a suspiciously bright-brown look that only served to highlight his pasty skin. Sadly, Osborne's personal spokesman is on holiday this week, which only adds to our suspicions. Not because we think the Chancellor deliberately dyed his hair at a time when there was nobody for the press to ask about it – but because we think that his nice special adviser would have advised him to choose a more natural colour. Next week: does David Cameron use a chestnut wash?

Austerity launch

The party of the year so far, for Charles Moore's biography of Margaret Thatcher, drew a crowd of politicos including the Prime Minister and Jeffrey Archer to the Banqueting House in Westminster. But, as ever, the more interesting story lies in who gave the bash a miss. In his speech, Moore thanked Thatcher's children, Carol and Mark, for their help but on looking around found the pair had not yet arrived. He said they were due shortly. In the event, the two never made it. Later that evening an archaeologist tweeted: "Ooh. Mark Thatcher and co are all having drinks outside the Carlton Tower... (i.e. The Rib Room terrace)." Understandable, perhaps, given what they have been through. Still, they missed out on the chance of a free copy, courtesy of the publishers, not an opportunity austerity Chancellor George Osborne was inclined to spurn. In fact the plangent plier of the purse strings tried pushing his luck, asking for two copies, of which one was to be for his Mum. One copy each, George had to be told. Tsk.

An actor's curse on Hermione

Emma Watson, publicising her new film The Bling Ring, out in July, bridles in GQ at Will Self calling her "a nice middle-class girl... as if I was this tiny, white fragile, breakable, china doll". She is also annoyed by men who ask her if she is "the girl from the Harry Potter films". But a letter in The Stage bears signs of having been written by a frustrated actor, who thinks she should be grateful for the wealth and fame that Hermione Granger has brought her, "in a profession where success is as rare as gold dust". I fear she may soon be called something worse than "middle class".