The Feral Beast: Flying with Sienna Miller, ding-dongs in the garden, and a bumbling premier

 

As Mohamed al-Fayed's spokesman, Michael Cole is used to smoothing over controversy. But the former PR man has kicked up a hornets' nest of his own by attacking fellow Suffolk resident Benjamin Britten. The bouffant-haired 69-year-old says "too much fuss" is being made over the late composer's centenary, and complains that "there aren't many tunes in Britten. In fact, there aren't any". Pouring kerosene on the fire, he adds that Britten and his partner Peter Pears were cowards for fleeing to America at the start of the war, "because they thought we would lose". The letters desk of the East Anglian Daily Times has never been so busy. While many readers have leaped to Britten's defence, a few agree with Cole. One describes Britten "cowering under his piano on the other side of the Atlantic", and sniffs that his music, "for want of a better word", would not have been appreciated by the troops. One professional musician writes in to say: "Spare a thought for me. I have to play it whether I like it or not."

Sienna takes off

Sienna Miller is technically on a break from work, saying that unless she is offered a "spectacular" part, she would rather be at home with her baby. So it's a hearty endorsement for BMW that the actress abandoned her Italian holiday to come home for a product launch. The 31-year-old was spotted at Perugia airport on Monday morning, catching a plane to London. "The airport staff were clearly starstruck," whispers my spy in Departures. "She got the full VIP treatment, being sneaked out into pole position for the Ryanair tarmac dash." Casually dressed in jeans and T-shirt, she later changed into a floral Dolce & Gabbana number for the launch of the BMW i3 electric car. Her holiday reading was Edward St Aubyn's novel Never Mind, the first of the David Melrose sequence, about a dysfunctional upper-class family. Mother's Milk, the fourth in the series, was adapted into a film. Could Sienna be persuaded to star in Never Mind: The Movie?

Lords and ladies

Much eyebrow-raising over the 30 peers newly elected to the House of Lords, who include JCB tycoon Anthony Bamford and nightclub entrepreneur James Palumbo. But what of their spouses? Jon Mendelsohn, once Gordon Brown's chief fundraiser, is married to the businesswoman Nicola Mendelsohn, who in May was appointed vice-president of Facebook in Europe, Middle East and Africa. A popular and impressive figure, the Manchester-born 41-year-old describes herself as "a proper northern lass", and rewards herself with a pair of Christian Louboutins after every deal. Her husband may have to declare an interest if he participates in debates on online porn and social media, due to go through the Lords. Sir Anthony Bamford's wife is also a successful businesswoman, having founded the posh delicatessen chain Daylesford Organics. In her previous life as an air hostess, she was nicknamed "Doors to Manual", which snobs have subsequently transferred to Carole Middleton.

Strawberry crush

An appeal to all gardeners: should strawberry plants be hacked right back in August? That's what gardening expert Monty Don suggested in Gardener's World on Friday. But according to the BBC's own guide to growing strawberries, you only "cut off the old leaves and leave the crown and new leaves untouched". This "allows sunlight into the centre of the plant, ensuring a better crop next year". Monty's advice has caused quite a stir on the Twitter, where gardeners are raging that strawberries shouldn't be cut back until October. Some have such regular grievances with the advice dispensed on Gardener's World that there's even a hashtag called "shouty half hour". "Unfortunately, this happens quite often on GW," writes one Tweeter. "I despair sometimes as it makes folk think they are bad gardeners when in fact they've been taught wrong." Does anybody know who's right?

Pink Panther politics

François Hollande is doing little to end speculation he is in fact Inspector Clouseau. The bumbling French president was recently heard talking of the situation "in Tunisia", when he meant Egypt. Then he offered "condolences to China" after a terrorist incident, which actually happened in Japan. Now, he has prompted yet more guffawing, after referring more than once in a speech to the non-existent Macédonie. The correct French name for the former Yugoslav republic is Macédoine. "This would be like calling us "Englandland", explains mon homme in Paris. Last year Hollande's security guards forgot to bring guns on a trip to Brazil. Then his PM, Jean‑Marc Ayrault, was recently recorded asking, as he got off a plane: "Is it Monday today?" "No wonder we're in crisis," sighs my man into his pastis. "We have a PM who doesn't know what day it is, and a president who doesn't know what state he's in."

Croeso i Gymru

Welsh politician Keith Davies has revealed he temporarily forgot how to speak English while undergoing hospital treatment. He reverted to his first language of Welsh as he underwent neurological treatment in Cardiff, but none of the staff could speak Welsh. Such incidents have been known to happen when people wake up from a stroke, or have some other kind of brain trauma. Mr Davies told the story while trying to highlight the importance of hospital staff speaking Welsh. "Heddyr, my wife, told me the story because I wasn't in a condition to remember it," he says. "No one understood what I was saying because I was speaking in Welsh." It's not the first time he has temporarily lost control of his faculties. Last year, he apologised to the Welsh Assembly after getting "adversely affected by alcohol" at a five-star hotel.

Another win for Andy?

Members of the Groucho Club, experts in outlandishness, are being asked to name their rebel of the year. The Groucho Maverick Award was founded in 2010 to "celebrate people who have broken the mould in their own particular field, by challenging and making a significant contribution to our culture". Previous winners have included circus-mistress Nell Gifford, the journalist Nick Davies and Danny Boyle, who won last year for his Olympics opening ceremony. This year, for the first time, non-members are eligible to make a nomination. The winner receives a cheque for £10,000, a Gavin Turk sculpture, and life membership of the Groucho. The smart money is surely on Andy Murray.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015