The Feral Beast: The sun'll come out, Tamara...

Beware the killer forepaw
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The Independent Online

In the world of ballet, competing companies manage to find the courtliest ways of putting down their rivals. So as principal dancer Tamara Rojo prepared to give her final classical performance for the Royal Ballet last night, taking the Margot Fonteyn role in Frederick Ashton's Birthday Offering, created in 1956 to present the top ballerinas of the day to the young Queen Elizabeth, she appeared to be on the receiving end of an elegantly understated slight.

For the imminent departure of Rojo, 38, (probably the top of the crop of the latter part of ER's reign) has prompted no particular displays of grief, yet when Darcey Bussell left the Royal Ballet five years ago, there was live coverage on BBC2, onstage speeches, buckets of flowers, and public weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Could the difference be that Bussell, at the same age, was retiring from dancing, whereas Rojo is moving to another job? And what other job would that be? Well, she's going to be the artistic director of... English National Ballet, where she intends to continue to perform. Rojo is not just joining the competition, she's saying: the Royal Ballet isn't my ultimate ambition. And they don't give bouquets for that.

Name that bird

Kew Gardens has made a popular entertainer the "sponsor" of a Bird of Paradise flower - properly called Strelitzia reginae - (which is one step short of naming it after him), for which he, being a bonzer geezer, is duly flattered. Some say the flower is the spitting image of this much admired figure, but the Beast is struggling to spot the similarity. Can readers detect who the lucky person might be? Answer next week.

Brought to book

Intriguing news from the world of phone-hacking. Mary-Ellen Field, former brand adviser to Elle Macpherson ("I couldn't do this business without her," Elle once said), is writing a book. Although in negotiations with the News International's lawyers, Field wants the story of how she helped build up the Macpherson lingerie and beauty brand (only to be accused of selling Elle's secrets to the papers and then sacked) known to a wider audience.

Field has always hoped that Macpherson would at least account for the fact that she got blamed for leaking indiscretions to the press when she had done no such thing. The stories were the result of phone hacking by the News of the World, although of course neither of them knew that at the time.

"I don't know about you, but I couldn't let a bad thing happen to a person and not want to put it right. I hope I've brought my children up like that," Field told the IoS last year. "I've always thought [Elle] was a decent human being. I got a card in April 2006 saying she'd been thinking about me and she would put pen to paper to explain everything." The only contact they have had has been through lawyers.

Macpherson, who lost a legal case against the Icelandic bank Kaupthing last week, at a cost of £2.5m. On hearing of Field's forthcoming book, her spokesman yesterday declined to comment.

Currying favour

A friend reports a happy outcome to the ubiquitous and increasingly irritating "Is there anything else I can help you with?" query so beloved of call-centre staff. "Yes there is, actually," he told the BT helpline worker in Mumbai. "I'm desperate for a really good recipe for masala chai." Thinking he'd hear no more about it, he was astonished when his phone rang half an hour later and a truly excellent recipe was duly produced, courtesy of the call centre worker's mum.

The X factor

Could it be that Alastair Campbell is taking himself the teensy-weensiest bit too seriously? Asked by the Guardian to write a sex scene that might turn women on (to mark the extraordinary success of EL James' 50 Shades of Grey), he found that the version the paper published yesterday omitted what might be called 'the best bits'. So his blog was reduced to what he called "My first ever rebuttal of a sex scene after Fifty Shades of crap Guardian editing"

Rotten manners

John Lydon may not have been your cup of tea (or indeed anybody's) if you saw him with the grown-ups on BBC One's Question Time on Thursday, but what about this from the August edition of Mojo magazine? Magnanimously, the man behind the punk anthem God Save the Queen says he has pretty much buried the hatchet with the Palace, but still manages to be surprised that Her Maj didn't know this, or have the good manners to ask him round. "To this day, the Royal Family haven't said, 'Hello John – have a cup of tea.' Life is for giving and sharing, as well as receiving – but it just seems to be that the landed gentry are permanently receiving." Some people, honestly.

The Queen, he says, "has my empathy – never pity, but empathy. ... I don't see everything as all bad, or all good. I'm a sucker for feudalistic art.... I love the bravado of pageantry. It sends a shiver up my spine in a most pleasant way.

"I'm not always just an angry young man. Or an angry middle-aged man. There are other sides to me." Whether punk's Peter Ustinov is invited back onto Question Time, though, must be another matter.

Gabby & Gabby

There's only one Gabby Bertin. Actually, there are two, or nearly so. The PM's popular press secretary made time to see Gabby Burton, head girl of Passmores Academy in Harlow, Essex, and show her round No 10. But among those not invited to Downing Street and its traditional summer drinks party are the nation's political hacks. Both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband hold bashes for the press this week, but it seems Dave feels he has seen quite enough of the reptiles for now.

Bad impression

The new building that houses the celebrated Barnes Collection – stuffed with Cézannes, Matisses and Picassos – in Philadelphia is nothing if not controversial, as Charles Darwent discusses on page 57, although you wouldn't know it from Wikipedia. Many in the art world have been shocked by the wholesale uprooting of the collection, but the Barnes Foundation's new Wiki entry is keener, shall we say, to accentuate the positive. It says the foundation's first director, Kimberly Camp (who subsequently resigned) "brought in exemplary professional staff", and "reviews have praised the new facility", in contrast to the old home where "reservations were required by telephone at least two weeks in advance". Treasures of the Barnes include Rousseau's Scout attacked by a Tiger. Sounds as if the defenders of its old home have suffered the same fate.

Game, set and ... oh, whatever

Carole Middleton's visits at Wimbledon last week were well documented in the press, and she certainly looks engaged enough here, settling in on Centre Court on Tuesday. But only the very sharp-eyed will have spotted that, later in the afternoon, at a particularly tense moment in Angelique Kerber's thrilling quarter-final defeat of German compatriot Sabine Lisicki – Kerber clinched victory on her fifth match point – the royal heir's mother-in-law was, er, reading a glossy celebrity magazine. Tennis... it can drag on so, can't it?