The Feral Beast: Money, money, money, fur flies over Larry the Downing Street cat, and bargain drapes

 

As students graduate with debts of £50,000, was it sensitive of University College London to splurge thousands on a leaving party for its proctor?

Sir Malcolm Grant stepped down as UCL's £400,000 a year head this month, and was rewarded with an £18,000 beano, complete with Abba tribute band. A Freedom of Information request reveals the college spent almost £5,000 to hire Bjorn Again, one of the world's most successful tribute acts, who have played Glastonbury and Reading.

Staff also blew £650 on a VW Beetle photo booth, and £260 on a batch of biscuits in the shape of Sir Malcolm's trademark moustache. Challenged by the local newspaper West London Extra, a UCL spokesman said: "The entertainment was partly funded by a donor, and the total cost was less than £5 a head.

"All those who attended received a complimentary 20cl alcoholic or soft drink and a souvenir cookie – so I don't think you could call it extravagant by any stretch of the imagination."

Sir Malcolm, meanwhile, has become chairman of NHS England. Kerching!

Through the barber's keyhole

When Sir David Frost expired on the QE2, he sadly took his best showbiz secrets with him to the grave. But one important question has finally been answered – how did he maintain that barnet? Denis Norden called him "the man with the upside down hair", and for years, fans have wondered how he achieved his bouffant wisp.

Step forward Stanley Alwin, 81, his faithful hairdresser and pupil of Vidal Sassoon. Alwin reveals that Sir David's secret weapon was tonic water. "He had very, very fine hair," Alwin explains. "He wanted to give his hair more lift, but I just couldn't get it. So I rang Vidal, who told me to soak his hair in tonic water because it has iron in it, which gives the hair more body. Blow me down – it did the trick."

On one occasion, Alwin had to perform emergency treatment on Sir David's hair. "He phoned me from Heathrow. He'd landed very early and asked if he could come round and get his hair blow-dried before going on television. It was four in the morning. I did his hair in my bathroom. Then I took him up to the BBC. He didn't have any money on him, but three weeks later, on the doorstep of my flat was an envelope with a £100 cheque."

A true gent.

Too superior to shine?

What is it about Athens that has such a strange effect on BBC hacks? The corporation's last correspondent, Malcolm Brabant, had a psychotic episode and thought he was the Messiah after a yellow fever inoculation went wrong. Now his replacement, Mark Lowen, has raised eyebrows with an unguarded Twitter comment.

Having posted a photo of his production staff hard at work in the heat, he praised them as "the behind-the-scenes magicians who get me on air". But when Sky News journalist Ian Sherwood said "I thought you did it all on your own", Lowen shot back: "They're just the shoe-shiners really."

Lowen certainly has reason to feel superior, having won a first at Balliol and a scholarship to King's College School. It must be a great honour to shine his shoes.

Everyone loves Larry

Journalist Matthew d'Ancona set the cat among the pigeons yesterday, by suggesting Larry the Downing Street cat was unloved by the Camerons. His suggestion that Larry is little more than a PR stunt so incensed No 10 that not only did they release a hot denial, insisting they all got on "purr-fectly well", but Dave himself repeated the joke on Twitter, saying: "He and I get on purr-fectly well. The kids love him too." But his choice of words only strengthens the original allegation – which is that Sam Cam is the one who really dislikes the cat. Milky waters…

Closest thing to Bassey

Katie Melua gave a surprise performance at the opening of The Other Club, a new women's club in Soho, central London, on Friday. The 29-year-old singer said she couldn't believe 10 years had passed since "The Closest Thing to Crazy", the single that launched her career.

On Wednesday, she will play a 10th anniversary concert at The Roundhouse in London, and her latest album, Ketevan, has just entered the charts at No 6.

Melua opened with a flawless rendition of Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever", whose lyrics seemed to chime with the philosophy of the club: "Unlike men, the diamonds linger/Men are mere mortals who/Are not worth going to your grave for." Just as well her new husband, James Toseland, stayed at home.

Portrait of the artist

Andrew Parker Bowles and various Bohemian grandees turned out for the funeral of Julian Barrow, the celebrated landscape painter, who has died aged 74.

Barrow had a prolific output, often knocking out four paintings a day. He worked from a studio in Chelsea once used by Whistler and Sargent. Though renowned for his hard work, he shared the whimsical humour for which his brothers, the writer Andrew Barrow, and the late Jonathan Barrow, are known.

When Goya's Duke of Wellington was stolen from the National Gallery in 1961, he would delight in strolling about Trafalgar Square carrying a copy. Nor was he precious about his own work: when the brother of Tory MP Sir Jerry Wiggin divorced his wife, he didn't mind that the couple simply cut their portrait down the middle. On another occasion, Barrow offered to paint the face of a second husband over that of an old one. "Oh no," the American lady replied. "My new husband doesn't wear red pants".

Curtains for someone

When Timothy Spall set sail round the British Isles on his Dutch barge for a BBC4 series, the boat became something of a celebrity itself. The actor would beg journalists not to reveal its location, to avoid unwanted attention.

Now fans of the series have a chance to own a little bit of history, as Spall has given away the barge's curtains to a charity shop. Tag Pet Rescue in Broadstairs, Kent, is offering a set of corded brown curtains, formerly the property of Mr Spall. "They look very worn, but they definitely came off the boat," says my man elbow-deep in the bargain bin.

Hurry hurry!

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...