The Feral Beast: His fracking lairdship, Eminem's demands, a peeping mouse and noisy knitters

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The Independent Online

As laird of the Balcombe estate – Ground Zero in the UK's fracking debate – Simon Greenwood is not a popular man. He has fracked off his Sussex neighbours by getting planning permission to allow US exploration company Cuadrilla to drill for gas. Even his cousin, Lord Cowdray, appears to disapprove. So what sort of a chap is Greenwood? A heli-skiing source in the Canadian Rockies has this to say: "We've been in a lodge with him twice and he is revolting! The worst kind of English quasi-aristocracy you can imagine." Really? How so? "He came down for a tea-time beer at the bar wearing very short red-satin shorts, matched with long black socks and black business shoes." Sounds like the PM on his hols.

Feastival fever

David Cameron is always a star attraction at the Cornbury Festival, Oxfordshire's celebration of all things middle class. So no doubt he will be turning out to support the Big Feastival this weekend, Jamie Oliver and Alex James's food and music piss-up at the Blur bassist's farm near Chipping Norton. Or will he? A source tells me Cameron has grown a little peeved with his neighbour lately. "People keep complaining to Dave about all the helicopters flying in and out, disturbing the peace," says my man at The Plough. "They all assume it's Dave choppering about, when in fact it's Alex and his mates." What it must be to be misunderstood....

Brecht's big guns

Henry Goodman is playing the title role in Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui as Chichester Festival Theatre. Tickets for artistic director Jonathan Church's production of the play, a Marxist denunciation of military power, have completely sold out, so a good result all round. But comrades forking out for the show may be surprised to learn who the chief corporate sponsor is: Lockheed Martin, one of the world's largest defence contractors. No doubt Brecht would have been delighted.

Pamper rap

Eminem made a fool of himself last weekend by refusing to let the BBC film his set at the Reading and Leeds festivals. Fans unable to get tickets who had hoped to watch from home were told at the eleventh hour that he was having a hissy fit, which meant no recording would be made. My man backstage says that was the least of his demands: apparently he insisted on having a whole section fenced off with a silver wall, into which no festival staff could enter. All women were banned, as were men over the age of 40. The kind of behaviour you'd expect of Mariah Carey, maybe, but a red-blooded rapper?

Vine lines

Professional motor-mouth Sarah Vine notes that those voting against Cameron over Syria are "pathetic losers", who can't see past their own interests. Does Mrs Michael Gove, who is leaving The Times for the Daily Mail, include her new employers in this group? No newspaper took a more anti-intervention line than the Mail, whose front-page editorial on the morning of the vote must have stiffened a few dithering MPs. Fun times ahead!

Pest and relaxation

Shrieks of horror rang out at one of London's most famous spas the other day, when a mouse scurried about on a spree. Ladies relaxing at The Sanctuary in Covent Garden – founded in 1977 for dancers at the Royal Ballet next door – were horrified when the little rodent shot across a treatment room. "It was awful, we were all terrified," pants a recovering victim. "It's just not what you expect at that price." The Sanctuary is famous for its women-only policy, and was used for the filming of Joan Collins's film The Stud in 1978. Debbie Harry once gave a party there, and various celebrities float in and out. Management were apparently quite sanguine about it all. "It's an old building, what do you expect?" shrugged a staff member.


Lawyers for Amanda Rosenberg, the 27-year-old former Marlborough College student reported to be having an affair with married Google boss Sergey Brin, have swung into action. Letters have been dispatched to all newspapers, pointing out that their client's privacy has been infringed. But perhaps they should look a little closer to home before seeking to silence the press. Anyone wanting to find out about the case need only crank up the Google search engine, where every detail is there for all to see!

Purls of wisdom

A knitting group in the Wiltshire town of Marlborough is all of a cluck after being banned from meeting in the library. The women – for they have yet to attract a male member – have been barred for making too much noise and taking up too much room. While it might seem a little heavy-handed to boot them out – they knit to raise money for charity – the knitters don't seem to have quite grasped the point of a library. "I thought the group would bring a bit of life into the library, which can sometimes be quite empty," says founding member Sally Elstub. She says she know that libraries are traditionally silent, but adds: "Obviously we were chatting while we were knitting."

Knocked for six

Following my item last week about a new cricket and literature festival, a reader writes in with a warning. Trevor Cox was intrigued by the Words and Wickets event taking place at Wormsley on 7 September, so he looked up tickets on the internet. "Tickets were £15, so I decided to buy one," he says. "The price box warned that the price might include a per ticket administration fee, which would be shown on the next page; £1.50 was duly added, and next to the total of £16.50 was a note that 'Your order may be subject to a fulfilment and/or delivery fee, which will be shown in your shopping basket'. Which of course it was: a further £2.50. And next to that was a further note that 'a charge for delivery (if any) will be added on the next screen'. In fact the next screen was an invitation to register with The Ticket Factory, and at this point I gave up and never found out if a delivery charge would be added." The organisers have been alerted and are taking action. The Ticket Factory, meanwhile, are taking a long hard look at themselves.