The Feral Beast: Game, set and match

Playful, but with sharp claws
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The Independent Online

It was the wedding of the year, for the Chipping Norton set at least. I can disclose that yesterday saw the marriage of the Hon Henry Allsopp to Naomi Gummer at her family home in Oxfordshire. She is the eldest daughter of Lord Chadlington, the PR guru chairman of Huntsworth and brother of ex-Tory minister John Gummer. A lobbyist and close friend of David Cameron, Lord C sold the PM a parcel of land next door to his home in Dean, which Dave forgot to declare last year. The groom is the 38-year-old brother of TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp, and the son of Christie's chairman, Lord Hindlip. His godmother is the Duchess of Cornwall. And, just to complete the circle, Naomi Gummer works at Google under Rachel Whetstone, the wife of Cameron's ex-chief adviser, Steve Hilton. Before Google, she was Jeremy Hunt's parliamentary assistant. Piccolo mondo! Lord Chadlington was rather busy yesterday when I called, and the vicar declined to discuss the guest list. Still, we trust the best man remembered to include the story of Henry's scrape with customs in Bermuda – he was found to be, er, wearing a condom filled with weed.

The Hive's all a buzz

If your brother is Nick Hornby, and you're married to Robert Harris, you might think there were enough novelists in the family. Not Gill Hornby, who has written one of her own. It's called The Hive, and will be published by Little, Brown next summer. "It was nervous-making, knowing that they were in the same game," she tells me. "But obviously it didn't put me off that much, as I've written it." Nick Hornby's hits include About a Boy, High Fidelity and Fever Pitch, a football memoir, while Harris has made millions with thrillers such as Fatherland and Pompeii. Gill tells me The Hive draws on her experiences as a mother of four children, and is about a group of mothers who meet at the primary school gates every day. "I'm clearly marking out my own territory," she laughs. "There isn't a swastika or toga in sight."

Allegro has a prang

Allegra Stratton has been political editor of Newsnight for just three months, but already she is courting controversy. A single mother interviewed by Stratton on Wednesday's show says she is "fuming" at how "the piece was edited to make me seem like a jobless ponce", and is considering making a formal complaint. Shanene Thorpe says she was made to seem as if she is unemployed, when in fact she works. She also says Stratton asked her "Do you think you should have had your daughter?", though this was edited out of the final cut. A BBC spokesman says: "We are sorry to hear Shanene Thorpe is unhappy. The interview was set up by Tower Hamlets council. Newsnight is yet to receive a complaint but if or when we do we will respond directly to Miss Thorpe regarding her concerns." Stratton will take it all in her stride: in the lobby, she was used to being called "Allegedly" Stratton, and with a sister called Portia, is quite used to silly diary jokes about being the Austin Allegro of the family.


Her first novel was such a hit that it became a Hollywood movie, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Now, Allison Pearson has turned her second into a musical. Following the success of I Don't Know How She Does It, her chick-lit work of 2002, Pearson has adapted I Think I Love You for the stage. It tells the story of a teenage girl's crush on David Cassidy in the 1970s. "It lends itself to musical theatre, with all those David Cassidy numbers," she tells me. The question remains whether they will get permission to use them. Pearson co-wrote the script with her partner, Anthony Lane, film critic for The New Yorker. How did she find working with her husband? "Not too bad, actually."

Magnum opus

John Suchet has carved out an impressive second career in classical music since giving up news-reading in 2004. This, despite his wife Bonnie's diagnosis in 2006 with Alzheimer's. Last year, he toppled Simon Bates as Classic FM's weekday breakfast host, and now, he is writing a book on Beethoven, his favourite composer - and not for the first time: he has already written five books about The Master, including a biography that took him 10 years. Other works include a three-part novel based on Beethoven's life. Can one have too much of a good thing?

Ministry of hot air

If you can't stand the heat, it's no good getting out of the kitchen. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is piping the hot air from its kitchen through the ventilation system to keep its canteen cosy, Energy minister Greg Barker has revealed. It means he won't have to heat the whole building simply to raise the temperature in the staff eatery. Presumably this also means the aroma of pie and chips will also be wafted through. Though after Barker was found to be using the office microwave to heat his dachshund's beanbag, staff must be used to the smell of hot dogs.

Jolly boats

Much excitement about the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on the Thames next Sunday, with some papers nearly going into meltdown. But has anyone seen the forecast? On the Weather Channel, the 10-day prognosis says scorchio every day until Saturday, but big black clouds on Sunday. Oh dear.

Bully book

David Cameron was taunted in last week's PMQs with shouts of "Flashman", the bully in Tom Brown's Schooldays. So what did his Schools minister, Nick Gibb, mean by saying he'd like to send a copy of the book to every child in Britain? His odd choice, apparently endorsing Labour's view that his leader is a public school bully, came at the end of Any Questions on Radio 4. Panellists were asked which book should be sent to every schoolchild, and all tried to make a link to the fact they were in Rugby. Host Jonathan Dimbleby even tried to suggest that Shakespeare was born there (er, try Stratford-upon-Avon). Gibb's choice of Tom Brown's Schooldays was met with hearty applause, but what must they think in Downing Street?

Counting the days

Sad news for student watchers of Countdown – Rachel Riley is getting married. The 26-year-old brainbox, who replaced Carol Vorderman in 2009, broke up with businessman boyfriend Jamie Gilbert in 2010. But soon after they got back together, he proposed, and wedding preparations are now in full swing. I understand Rachel has even signed an exclusive arrangement with a certain publication, so there's no going back. On Thursday, she told viewers about her hen party 'this weekend'. But Countdown is recorded weeks in advance, and her people admit the party was long ago. Would Carol have made such a boo-boo?