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
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

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada