The Feral Beast: Monty Don's moans, love and loot, Korean cuisine and Foot and footie
Sunday 10 November 2013
Monty Don has become something of a Marmite figure among gardeners, not least on social media. We recently pointed out some of his howlers, and the blogosphere is full of comments calling him "arrogant" and "condescending".
Now Monty has hit back, dedicating a column to attacking social media. Writing in the new edition of Gardener's World magazine, he says: "From those that we love and admire we can take correction, but when it comes – often loudly and rudely – from strangers... then it seems more civilised to turn off." Rather pompously, he adds: "Life is too short to be hectored, especially about something that I do for love."
Hang on a minute: he's not paid for his columns and TV appearances in love, but with a hefty BBC salary. Monty has toppled two much-loved presenters from Gardener's World. Shouldn't he listen to his critics, rather than switch them off?
When the writer Nicholas Shakespeare found a box of letters belonging to his late aunt, he unravelled the mystery of how she spent the war (plenty of sex and a spell in Besançon). The result is his new book, Priscilla. But there's an even bigger mystery waiting to be cleared up.
Priscilla's German lover in occupied France was responsible, in August 1944, for smuggling 200 of Goering's stolen masterpieces into Spain. Shakespeare claims that, for a while, there was a catalogue circulating in Madrid offering for sale works by Goya and Rembrandt. "It's thought the canvases ended up in the vaults of the Japanese embassy in Madrid, from where they vanished," he tells me. "They have not been seen since." Misterioso!
Links were forged with South Korea last week with a lavish state visit to London of the country's first female president, Park Geun-hye. Prince William took time out of fatherhood to attend a ceremony launching a new Korean war memorial in London, and the Queen hosted a state banquet. It all coincided with the opening of the eighth Korean film festival in London.
But nobody has done more to show loyalty to Korean culture than the food writer Gizzi Erskine, co-presenter of Channel 4's Cook Yourself Thin. I gather she has named her cat Kimchi, after the Korean national dish. Traditional preparation methods involve fermenting cabbages underground for months. I'm sure it tastes delicious.
Shaken and stirred
Roger Moore was widely considered among the less impressive presenters of Have I Got News for You when he made his debut last year. The 86-year-old Bond actor was lambasted afterwards, with viewers describing the show "uncomfortable" and "painful" to watch. Now he says it was because he couldn't read his lines. "I didn't enjoy it at all," he told an audience in London last week. "I couldn't see the monitor, because it was too far away. I was completely out of my depth." That's never stopped him before.
Having a ball
Neil Kinnock made a well-received indiscretion while speaking at a literary festival on Monday. He told a tale of how Michael Foot, the former Labour leader, once carried out a one-man pitch invasion of a football match, when his beloved Plymouth Argyle scored away during a match against Tottenham.
"Naturally the police picked him up and took him out," Kinnock noted. "He talked them round during half-time, and went back in through a different part of the ground in the second half."
Funny that Lord Kinnock didn't think to mention his own overexuberance at a recent football match. The Labour peer had to be removed by stewards at Craven Cottage last month, when Cardiff took the lead over Fulham. He was sitting among the Fulham fans, who didn't take kindly to his "vociferous" cheering. "I don't think I went wild," he said at the time. "But I did express great joy, standing up, there's no doubt at all about that."
Tea and symphony
Soprano Natalie Coyle made her debut singing for England before yesterday's rugby league world cup match against Fiji. The 25-year-old rising star tells me she was so nervous about fluffing the words to the national anthem that she had them pasted all over her house.
"I've been staring them in my bedroom and in the shower for weeks, every time I wash my hair," she says. "I think I must have sung the national anthem about a million billion times."
Does she have a favourite line? "I'm looking forward to the last one, as then it'll all be over. Then I'm going to have a cup of tea." That's the spirit!
The late John Cole was admired for his impartial reporting and refusal to get drawn into political gossip. But the BBC correspondent was capable of the occasional bitchy put-down.
In his memoirs, As It Seemed to Me, he tells the story of how he landed his first big scoop, aged only 21, by interviewing the then prime minister Clement Attlee as he returned from holiday in County Sligo. He recalls standing on the border and looking on as the Attlees, unrecognised by customs officials, were forced to open the suitcases in the boot of their car to make sure they weren't importing nylon stockings or worse. "There was no police escort," he writes. "The biggest danger to the British Prime Minister was from his wife, who had a reputation as an eccentric driver."
Of the five members of Take That, Robbie Williams was always the thinking fan's choice, having branched out with his own brand of slightly classier pop. So it comes as a slight disappointment to discover he had no idea what he was singing about.
Speaking on a new series of Mastertapes, to be aired on Radio 4 this week, he says of his hit number "Let Me Entertain You": "I didn't even know what those words meant. I didn't know what an effigy was, what empathy was. I just know they were words and they rhymed." Couldn't he have, like, looked them up? "I have no aspirations to be a windswept interesting intellectual," he bristles. Just as well.
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