The Feral Beast: Model of forgiveness

Playful, but with sharp claws
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The Independent Online

While we've all been fine-tuning our opinions of Rupert Murdoch in the light of his performances at the Leveson inquiry, many of his former compatriots retain a robust scepticism about the old boy. One such is artist Tony Sowersby, who entered the above offering, A Marriage of Convenience, for Australia's Bald Archy satire competition. It features James and Rupert Murdoch and model Elle McPherson, a victim of News International phone-hacking but who found it in her heart to forgive. Sowersby was quoted in Australia recently as saying: "Elle Macpherson was just one of the celebrities and others who had their phones hacked by the Murdochs' tabloid the News of the World. But she didn't grandstand, or complain, or play the blame game... well, except for sacking her business manager, who had nothing to do with it! True, Elle did accept an incredibly well-paid gig from a Murdoch station, but that wasn't to buy her silence. No way. She only took that money to help her favourite charity. She wanted to help tall, emaciated girls to become so famous that one day their phones would be hacked too."

Strange and even stranger

Readers of The Independent on Sunday have no need to be told what is fashionable, nor that David and Samantha Cameron have a new nanny, a potty-mouthed Australian former shoplifter called Sammi Strange. But I can reveal they came close to getting the ultimate in parental chic, a male nanny. The Feral Beast has learnt that the couple were smitten, as so many of Notting Hill's finest have been, by the need for the last word in domestic desirability, a "manny", and had their eyes on one who was working for some close friends. The friends decided to move out of the capital, which the manny, an arty Londoner, didn't fancy, and Sam and Dave thought they'd offer him a berth. They spoke to his agency, but he ultimately opted out of a stint in Downing Street. Shame.

A spoonful of Brown Sugar

Flamboyant writer Duncan Fallowell is up in arms at magazine claims that he was once into smack. It seems he was misquoted in Apartamento, the latest issue of which was launched last week at a design fair. "It is tantamount to saying I was a heroin addict," says Fallowell. So he'll be reaching for the lawyers? Seemingly not. In the course of his interview with Jonathan Openshaw, he had mentioned that he "smoked it a bit in Penang". "In those days, to have gone to Penang and not tried the heroin would be like going to Camembert and not trying the cheese," Duncan tells me. "The heroin of Penang was called Brown Sugar and highly rated by aficionados – the Stones named their hit song after it." So the dispute turns on the word "into".

"It has always been important to my personal and artistic nature that I never went the heroin route – and I've always been emphatic about this. It's a switch-off drug for idiots." He says he was keener on LSD, cannabis, various forms of speed... "I smoked opium in the Far East quite a lot. Between the ages of 18 and 30 I took a lot of drugs and tried almost everything but I was never 'into smack' and I was never addicted to anything."

Her Majesty's musical chairs

Will the monarch attend, in her Diamond Jubilee year, the Prom at which the Ninth Symphony by her Master of the Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, is premiered? "Her Majesty is always welcome," said Proms director Roger Wright inscrutably at the season's launch party. "She has a box." All eyes on the tiers at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 August, then. Perhaps she should bear in mind that for many composers their ninth symphony is their last. It could be a case of now or never.

Top of the form

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is extraordinarily admired by those who work with him, including grateful former PMs. For all his success, he remains modest and well liked. This is all the more remarkable given how far back his success goes. An IoS reader, formerly a young form teacher at the Quaker-oriented Bootham School in York, has let on to the Feral Beast that he was once upbraided by the headmaster for being too generous with his marking of the end-of-term exams.

The object of this alleged generosity was the young Heywood, recalls the master, Peter Braggins, who went on to become a grammar school head himself. "I discovered that he had 100 per cent for all assignments, and so this was his final percentage. The then head summoned me to protest that no boy (it was a boys' school only at the time) could have such a mark and I had lamely to say that I could discover nothing which he had done wrong." Whatever else goes on in Cabinet, it's nice to know that ministers are being advised by someone who is rock solid on past participles and the Battle of Culloden.

Eyeing up Clegg

Exciting news on the ophthalmological front. Nick Clegg has started wearing glasses, but only for reading, as seen in footage of a Cleggy day, shown during an interview with Nick Robinson on Friday night's BBC1 News. Hmmm... here's another big news story sneaked out late on Friday.

Fit as a Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was invited as guest of honour to a dinner and dance last weekend at Ellesmere College, which one of his children attends. But when the intrepid 68-year-old arrived, he met with a set of closed, forbidding gates. Nick Pettingale, director of development at the school, reports: "Sir Ranulph had no mobile phone signal and turned up at the wrong entrance, only to find it locked. However, having climbed Everest three times and run seven marathons on seven continents in seven consecutive days, he simply climbed the main gates and found his way to the dinner, much to his and our amusement." Hats off!

Dinner gong

What was Rupert Murdoch doing quoting Leveson back to him during the Grand Inquisition last week? "I understand you're one of the few people that like Le Monde," the old boy told the judge: "You also paid a very nice compliment about The Times. I'm repeating a private conversation, I'm sorry." So who was he quoting? His son-in-law Matthew Freud, one of whose parties Leveson famously attended, maybe? From anyone with a less sympathetic demeanour, this might have sounded like the equivalent of "We know where you live."

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