The Feral Beast: Keeping their eye on the ball

Makes dudes and big boys quiver

Enjoying Wimbledon yesterday were none other than Ryan Giggs and his wife Stacey. While the home lives of footballers do not usually concern the Beast, Giggs's is special. Once seen as a blameless, happily married winger, object of uncontested public esteem, after loose talk on the web he was found to be a love rat of the first order, having had an eight-year affair with his brother's wife Natasha and another with an "ex Big Brother beauty". And then came Lord Justice Leveson, whose judgment on whether we are allowed to know this sort of thing we await with interest.

Critic's stout denial

It is not unheard of for hardbitten news reporters on rival titles to wrong-foot each other, but who knew that things were so cut-throat on the arts pages? As the curtain came down on a late-running out-of-town show last week, London critics fled to catch the approaching train on an infrequent service. But when one reviewer, faced with a sprint down the high street that would serve as an Olympic qualifier event, asked Mark Shenton of the Daily Express and The Stage if she could hitch a ride in his taxi, he pronounced the car full, climbed in with his two companions and slammed the doors shut as the driver sped off, leaving one surprised woman of a certain age standing in the road. But hang on, taxis take four passengers, don't they? Shenton is the well-built pal and Critics' Circle ally of Financial Times critic Ian Shuttleworth, or Fatty, as he was dubbed in a spat with The Daily Telegraph's Tim Walker, which led to factions standing on opposite sides of the room at interval drinks time. Maybe needing extra room in the car is a sign that Shenton too has chosen avoirdupois over chivalry.

Job risks

And talking of chivalry, popular singer and actor Jess Conrad OBE, 76, has been talking about the success of his fast-selling new CD of old favourites, Dreamboats and Petticoats: Three Steps To Heaven. Jess, though, seems to know more about crooning than he does about chivalry, or even self-deprecation. He tells me: "I still get women throwing underwear at me. It used to be skimpy, but these days there's a lot of pretty large button-gusset stuff and it's a bit of a health and safety issue – they could have my eye out!" He adds: "I'm a sex symbol for women who no longer care. I mean, women still fall for me – but that's only because they can't stand up."


What lies behind Rupert Murdoch's casual dismissal of "the English", when asked why he was reluctant to invest in the UK. Author Peter Jukes, who is just finishing his book The Fall of the House of Murdoch, tells me it's all down to Murdoch, with his Scottish Presbyterian ancestry, seeing himself as "a poor colonial boy, fighting against elites and the 'English' establishment".

"Murdoch effectively parlayed the anti-establishment rhetoric of the New Right, derived from Richard Nixon, to a British audience. So much of that rhetoric, especially in Scotland, comes from the imagined community of betrayed Borderlanders," says Jukes, who says Murdoch was heavily influenced by Richard Nixon's famous 1952 "Checkers" speech. "Nixon hailed from a Scottish background, like so many of the shock jocks and avatars of the New Right from the 60s onwards: Nixon, Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck, Perry. They tally with a wave of Scottish immigration, trapped between the Protestants of New England and the Royalists of the South, who migrated along the marginal lands of the Appalachians, through Tennessee and the Ozarks to Oklahoma, and then followed through to southern California in the depression."

Who he?

Notwithstanding Janet Street-Porter's strictures referenced in her column today, we shouldn't be too hard on poor Chloe Smith, who was on the wrong end of a Paxo-bashing on Newsnight on Tuesday. Despite having had a rough time of it on Channel 4 News at 7pm that evening, evidently she did little to improve her prospects in the intervening three hours or so before appearing with Paxo. But it's quite possible she didn't know who he was. She didn't have a TV until she entered parliament in 2009. Laudable, maybe, but unwise for a modern politician, surely.

What a card

Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, may be many things to many people. Ukip leader Nigel Farage, for example, said a couple of years ago that Van Rompuy has "all the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk". But you can't say he lacks magnanimity. Those who attended Stanhope Capital's debate on the future of Europe last week heard Farage admit that he and Mr Van Rompuy will never be bosom buddies, "but he did send me a Christmas card last year". "I was totally astonished when I opened it," says Farage, who was lucky to survive a plane crash a few months after issuing his damning verdict. "Perhaps he felt sorry for me after my trials and tribulations. But if he thinks I'm going to ease up on him, he's got another think coming.


For the third year in succession, David Cameron will be spending at least part of the summer holidays in Cornwall. So be braced for lots of, er, cheesy, or indeed meaty photo-opportunities of Dave tucking into a tax-free warm pasty....

'Oy George

Exciting news from clubland. Iain Duncan Smith has been made an honorary life member of Pratt's, saving himself the annual £265 per year membership fee. Pratt's, as you won't need reminding, is a gentleman's club just behind the Ritz in central London. The male staff are all called George, presumably to save members the bother of remembering their names. The club suffered a crisis in the 1980s when a woman took a key drink-pouring post, but further angst was averted when it was agreed that she should be called Georgina.

High notes

Booking opens on Friday for the viewing galleries at the Shard, architect Renzo Piano's crystalline London spike, but the musically minded may be able to get to the top another way. Composer Samuel Bordoli wants to use the Shard as a concert venue. His "Live Music Sculpture", to be played a week today above the newly installed Olympic rings on Tower Bridge, could be a precursor to a performance at the Shard. In the Tower Bridge work, 30 instrumentalists will be dispersed around the vast 42-metre-long walkway at the top of the bridge, enabling the audience (also in the walkway, high above the road) to hear music which, rather than emanating from one source as in a conventional concert, effectively envelopes them. Bordoli is a believer in audiences' "remarkable ability to hear and process 360-degree sound", and is keen to immerse them in it. Given that the Shard is, at 310 metres tall, the highest building in Europe, with 95 floors and a £450m price tag, in Bordoli's hands it has the potential to be the world's largest and costliest glass harmonica, too.

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