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!

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?