The Feral Beast: Portrait of a curator moving on

Eats anything that moves

All change at the Royal Academy of Arts, after the abrupt departure of a senior curator. MaryAnne Stevens has quit Piccadilly's most august institution after 29 years' service, amid rumours of a personality clash with director Charles Saumarez Smith. The timing is not ideal: Stevens cleared her desk just five days after the opening of the RA's major new Manet retrospective which she put together. Friends of Stevens say she will be a serious loss to the gallery, having joined in 1983 from the academic world, and being an excellent communicator who can speak with authority on almost any major artist. A spokesman confirms she left on 31 January, but declines to comment on rumours of a bust-up. "MaryAnne will continue her relationship with the RA by delivering a select number of ongoing projects, within a wider consultancy portfolio." The RA is offering a walking tour of Manet's London and lunch with MaryAnne on 8 March, for £40 a head. At that price, let's hope she spills the borlotti.

Speedy Huhne

One detail not mentioned in the Chris Huhne case is that his family fortune comes partly from speed cameras. His father, Peter Paul Huhne, founded Traffic Safety Systems in 1996, and Huhne himself was once a director of the company. He and his father resigned as directors in December 2003, some months after he was banned from driving. The company pioneered the use of mobile CCTV units and speed cameras by police forces, not dissimilar to the sort he was caught by – several times.

Pooh sticks

You might have thought an East Sussex farmhouse with links to the Rolling Stones and Winnie the Pooh would be snapped up, but no. The owners of Cotchford Farm, where A A Milne wrote Winnie-the-Pooh, and where guitarist Brian Jones drowned in the swimming pool in 1969, are struggling to find a buyer, almost a year after putting it on the market for £2m. Now, they're beginning to wonder if the Stones fans hiding in the bushes could be putting people off. "Over the years we've had all sorts of odd people jumping out of rhododendron bushes or taking pictures of themselves with teddy bears," sighs Harriet Johns. Roxanne Fontana, who founded the Brian Jones Memorial Fan Club, says people make pilgrimages from all over the world. "Sometimes they will knock on the door and ask to look around, but others are found sneaking around the garden," she says. "The owner has been really nice and tells potential buyers." Mrs Johns adds: "Anyone who bought the house wouldn't have to do this– they could say the house was private." Or charge £5 a pop?

A Vine example

Staff at The Times are keen to prove how indispensable they are, as threats of a merger with The Sunday Times hangs in the air. So was it advisable for beauty editor and columnist Sarah Vine to launch her own fashion website, Get the Gloss, which appears to take up an awful lot of her time? Vine has drawn a lot of attention to herself in recent months by filling her Times column with indiscretions about her husband, Education Secretary Michael Gove. Now, she has landed herself in trouble by recommending buying puppies as a way of cheering yourself up – the Goves have just adopted a bichon frisé called Snowy. "I really object to you suggesting getting a cute puppy to cure January blues – even in fun," fumes reader Patsy Frederiksen. "Taking on a dog or puppy requires careful thought and analysis of one's lifestyle. Dog rescue shelters are full of rejected pets acquired on a whim. And why a fancy breed? Mongrels are just as charming and often healthier than expensive, deliberately bred dogs." Just as well most people can't comment on Vine's Times pieces, safely hidden behind a paywall.

Twitter who?

Meanwhile, Michael Gove's hot‑head adviser Dominic Cummings has still not denied contributing to the Twitter stream @Toryeducation, which is under investigation after making personal attacks on journalists. Now, some are wondering if Cummings might also be the author of a rather brilliant spoof account, @SteveHiltonGuru, parodying David Cameron's bohemian ex-adviser. Recent gags include: "Betty Ford: Dave needs to check in for his war-mongering, Mali is a bridge too far." Both Twitter feeds have quotes from Sun Tzu. Cummings was spotted last week carrying a book on the art of guerrilla warfare. He did not return my request for a comment.

Naughty knight

Alec Guinness's diaries, recently bought by the British Library, reveal that his opinion of Laurence Olivier later in life was less than positive. The day after Olivier's death in 1989, Sir Alec described the great actor as "unpleasant, possibly even vindictive". But could Sir Alec's judgement have been coloured by a snub he received from Olivier back in the Sixties? In his memoir Blessings in Disguise, Guinness records how Olivier came up to him after watching his final rehearsal as Malvolio for a 1969 TV version of Twelfth Night. "Larry caught me by the arm. 'Fascinating, old dear. I never realised before that Malvolio could be played as a bore.' I was a little put out. I would hear the word 'bore' running through the rest of my performance. When I told Ralph [Richardson], he shrugged it off. 'He's wrong, old cock. He can be wrong, you know. I think your performance is fine.'" A sensitive flower.

Vintage MPs

The latest audit of the Government's fine wine collection reads like one of Jilly Goolden's more excitable tasting notes. Starting with a 1955 Chateau Latour, the report details the condition of 39,000 wines stored beneath Lancaster House on The Mall. A 61 Latour is "still spicy and youthful with a gawkiness which time should resolve". But the 75 Cheval Blanc is "a bit disappointing, lacks fruit and charm". Meanwhile, a 2001 Chateau la Lagune is "fresh and bright, if a little simple". Whoever writes this stuff should do an audit of the Cabinet.

Suitably Spall

Mike Leigh has finally got the go‑ahead to make a film about the painter J M W Turner. The director has been wanting to make the biopic for years, and last week revealed that filming is to begin, with Timothy Spall playing the landscape artist. The news was greeted with some excitement at Petworth House in West Sussex, home of the Wyndham family, where some of the film will be shot. Spall has divided opinions in his current role as Lord Emsworth in the BBC series Blandings. Some say he is the wrong shape: in the P G Wodehouse books, Emsworth is tall and aquiline. So we're sure he'll be ideal for the role of a shambling genius artist who went under the pseudonym "Puggy".

Jemima keeps her cool

Trial-evader Julian Assange may be running out of supporters, but at least he'll always have his mum. Christine Assange has made a rare public foray to rebuke Jemima Khan for her New Statesman article which says the WikiLeaks founder is at risk of becoming "Australia's Ron L Hubbard". Mrs Assange ranted online: "While spoilt socialites stamp feet b/c they're not bumped to top of #Assange to do list, ordinary people remain steadfast in their support." Jemima's response has been suitably dignified, but who are these so-called "ordinary people"? WikiGeeks?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map