The Feral Beast: Notes from the small minded, Pippa's back, and Thatcher and Powell's pow-wow
Sunday 13 October 2013
Bill Bryson may seem like a travelling teddy bear, all cosy jokes and observations. But he is a papa grizzly when it comes to protecting his utterings. Lawyers acting for the author of Notes from a Small Island have fired off a furious email to a journalist who has reprinted an interview with him from 19 years ago. Mike Gerrard wrote the piece for the literary mag Passport in 1994. Now he has turned it into an ebook, selling at £2.05 a pop. But Bryson's publishers, Transworld, have demanded that he withdraw the book from sale, saying that their client owns the copyright to the words he spoke that day. If that were the case, no journalist could ever reprint any article. "I'm baffled as to why the author is taking this bullying attitude," says Gerrard. "The interview promotes him and his work, and has links to his books. It's even more surprising because he's an American from the land of free speech." Gerrard has refused to take the ebook down, and Transworld did not respond to a request for comment.
Caught out on Twitter
Dominic Cummings is leaving politics, possibly to go into education. This is a shame for journalists: the hot-headed advisor to Michael Gove – some say he's a genius; others, a disaster – can be relied upon for good copy. So disaster-prone is he that Andy Coulson vetoed his appointment to No 10. His latest blunder is to reveal an Alastair Campbell-style relationship with the truth. When, earlier this year, I emailed to ask if he was the author of an amusing Twitter account called @stevehiltonguru, he denied being on Twitter at all, saying: "Jeez louise im not on twitter" [sic]. Now, he is openly going round as @OdysseanProject, an account that has been active since early last year. If he does go into education, perhaps he should take a course in truth economics.
Fading or hopeless? Vote now
Defibrillators at the ready: 12 flagging celebrity careers will soon get a pre-Christmas boost. ITV has yet to announce the line-up for the 13th series of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, but I gather that Matthew Wright has been earmarked for the jungle. The chirpy host of Channel Five's The Wright Stuff was spotted in talks with the show's celebrity booker. Wright is a self-confessed fan of the show. "I love I'm a Celebrity," he once informed readers of his Daily Star Sunday column. "It's the daddy of reality shows because it doesn't pretend to be something it's not." How so? "Get a bunch of fading stars and hopeless wannabes together, offer them cash, some column inches and then torture them. Genius!" One wonders in which category he places himself.
The high cost of charity
The director of Britain's oldest heritage charity has been accused of wasting money after blowing thousands on a legal action he has now dropped. Last year, Matthew Slocombe became director of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, founded in 1877 by William Morris. He immediately axed the quarterly magazine, Cornerstone, and its editor, Robin Stummer, replacing it with his own magazine. Stummer sued for wrongful dismissal, prompting Slocombe to counter-sue over another matter. Now, 10 months later, SPAB has dropped the action. SPAB's accounts show it normally spends about £10k a year on legal fees. Last year, they spent £90,794, and this year's bill will be considerably more. This comes as accounts show that the charity's income has dropped 29 per cent year-on-year. A statement from Slocombe says: "After careful consideration [SPAB] concluded that the benefits of pursuing this action no longer outweighed the likely cost to the Society." He declined to comment on whether it had been money well spent when I called.
Sheherazade's Pink flushes
Zac Goldsmith has his hands full with a new wife and baby, Dolly, born in August. But his ex-wife Sheherazade has thrown herself into bee-keeping. "I've got a new beehive," she tells the diary at the opening of Alice Temperley's new bridal wear shop. "I've started producing my own honey." Sheherazade has been named one of Britain's most eligible singletons since her split from Zac in 2010. She now lives in Petersham, in her ex-husband's constituency, where she is trying to reinvigorate the local bee population. "As Albert Einstein once said: "If there were no bees there'd be no humanity." Meanwhile, she is planning a visit to Glastonbury. "I haven't been for over 20 years, but I'm going if Pink Floyd headline," she says. "Dave Gilmour is my long term crush. He's a God." Watch out!
Lagerfeld's front about back
Another pearl of wisdom from Karl Lagerfeld. The weirdo fashion designer tells French TV: "The hole in your Social Security budget is because of all the illnesses caught by people who are too fat." Latest figures show that France has the lowest obesity rate in Western Europe. Britain, meanwhile, has the highest. He also believes that Pippa Middleton should "only ever show her back". Not sure who's side we're on in that one.
Friends after all
Margaret Thatcher and Enoch Powell circled each other like cats in an alleyway, each as mistrustful of the other. But documents released from the Thatcher archive reveal that the former PM did have a grudging respect for him, despite not giving him a place in her cabinet. When Powell, politically toxic after his "Rivers of Blood" speech, asked to meet the PM a few months after her 1979 victory, her PPS, Ian Gow, wrote her a note saying: "While I understand your concern at the wider implications of him being seen arriving at Downing Street at the present time, I believe that Enoch is wholly trustworthy in his personal (if not political) dealings." He adds: "I retain a latent admiration for him". Thatcher wrote: "Agreed, MT". Three weeks later they reached a compromise, meeting late in the House of Commons, not Downing Street.
The show must go on
Libby Purves, 63, was shocked to find she'd been sacked as The Times's theatre critic last month, only three years into the job. "No, not a joke" she said when it was reported. "No, no idea why." She has pledged not to "vanish from back row opining", but her last review appeared in yesterday's paper. And what's this – a coded message? "There's a place in our Heston Blumenthal-ish, revisionist gourmet world of modern theatre for the showbiz equivalent of a good roast beef and two veg," she writes. "Sometimes the old tunes are best." Quite right – her predecessor, Benedict Nightingale, retired aged 71.
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